Taking the Hints

Hints School.

Hints School – note that in the original post, I suggested artistic license in the use of the church bell as the schoolhouse has no bell – how wrong I was. Clearly, they mirror each other so I wonder if Oldrid Scott, the architect who designed St. Bartholomew’s at Hints also designed the Schoolhouse. Image kindly supplied by Joe Headley.

Last week, I featured a film here that I was absolutely stunned by, and although well received, it’s been a real slow-burning success, being viewed much more later in the week as people discovered it.

‘The Poacher’s Apprentice’ is a remarkable piece of film, made in 1952 by Brownhills filmmaker Edgar Pritchard, who also made the 1934/5 Brownhills Carnival film and the short feature ‘Hope Springs Eternal’ – Edgar clearly had a real talent and seems to be a hitherto overlooked son of Brownhills.

Coming up, I have much more about Edgar and his life, a huge quantity due to remarkably diligent research by Peter ‘pedro’ Cutler, but also from David Evans, who’s been working closely with the source of the recent Pritchard related material, Margaret Thompson.

But, back to Hints for now. I know Hints, the tiny little village just off the A5 west of Tamworth where ‘The Poacher’s Apprentice’ was filmed. Many of the spots seen in the film are unchanged; so on Saturday I took a ride over there to photograph them and give a modern point of reference. Those church gates haven’t changed since the young lad came out of them 64 or so years ago.

Those photos are in the gallery at the bottom of this post.

Untitled 9

Hints on modern 1:25,000 Ordnance Survey mapping. In the 80s and 90s it was very busy with the A5 going through it, but since the opening of the A5 bypass to the north, it has returned to being a sleepy hamlet.

Also in response to the film, I heard from old friend of the blog Joe Headley, who happens to have family connections to the village; he sent me the following wonderful message and photos.

Hi Bob,

I watched with great interest the old film on Hints by Edgar Pritchard and noted also Pedro’s comments about the history of Hints drying up somewhat and wondered if a few old photos of hints and its inhabitants would be of interest.

My mother grew up at Hints, went to school there, and lived there until her mid-teens which would be about 1930-ish. My gran and grandad lived behind the school house and gran used to serve afternoon teas etc., to visitors of the village. My grandparents later moved to keep the Haycock Inn at Little Hay. My great grandparents farmed at Mile Oak Farm which was purchased from Sir Robert Peel whose estate encompassed it at that time.

The Loader family inhabited the school house and I remember visiting as a young boy, the Missies Loader were then owners and I think I’m right in saying that the one sister taught at the school for some years.

My grand father Harry Slyfield was an amateur jockey and rode successfully both in the Midlands and the home counties. Whilst shooting at Bucks Head Farm in my teens I was introduced to a retired Colonel whose name sadly I cannot recall but he remembered my grandfather riding ‘The Squire’, the owner of the horse is not known to me but the colonel said they were a force to be reckoned with in Point to Points.

I will scan some old photos from 1916-1918 at Mile Oak Farm and Hints in I guess the 1920’s and if they are of interest please use them.

Best regards

All images and captions in above gallery very kindly supplied by Joe Headley.

Thanks to everyone involved in this post: Peter, David, Joe, Margaret and all the readers who’ve contacted me. So much more to come – Edgar deserves recognition.

Comments welcome, as ever, or mail me – BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com.

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10 Responses to Taking the Hints

  1. Andy Dennis says:

    Lichfield Mercury 31 March 1922 [Friday]
    … at the Meynell Hunt Point-to-Point Races held on Wednesday … Mr J A Connell’s The Squire experienced little difficulty in winning the Masters’ Open Nomination Race, whilst Major G Anson secured second place in the Staffordshire Yeomany event with his horse Matt.
    [Anson = Shugborough?]
    Also, it is said, a number of local traders having backed several winners went all in on a fancied horse. Sure enough it was first, but the bookie had done a runner!

  2. Pedro says:

    Hi Joe

    Tamworth Herald 8 April 1922 reports….

    …the South Staffs Leight-weight…a sweepstake of £2 2s was won by The Squire (Major JA Connell ridden by Mr Slyfield

  3. Pedro says:

    Ha Ha!

    Andy, you shot out of the starting stalls before I could get out of the traps!

    A bit of a squeeze these days.

  4. Pedro says:

    Thanks to Joe for some great old photos.

    Also to Bob for the comparison some 60 years on from the film.

    Another great example of how his Blog greatly adds to the local history.

    I have located a Library with the book featured in the film, The Poacher’s Handbook….I’ll soon have me own catapult!

  5. Pedro says:

    On the modern OS Map, just above the name Hints is the name Gold’s Clump….it is featured in the defunct Tamworth Time Hikes here…


  6. Pedro says:


    Good all-round man for farm work: good wages, and extras, to suitable man.

    HE Slyfield, Mile Oak Farm, Tamworth

    Tamworth Herald, Saturday 23 October 1915

    • Joe Headley says:

      To Pedro and Andy, thank you so much for supplying the research information I am truly grateful for the extra information and I’m glad you found the old photos of interest.

  7. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    What a super article and I echo Pedro’s thanks. The film in itself is a beautifully crafted
    piece of cinematographic art and I hope we will learn the names of the central characters in due course.
    My only visit to the village was when a very young child passenger on the back of my father’s bike and I remember going in a governess’s cart for a ride.down a lane and through a ford.This would be in the immediate post war years..was there some sort of village fete?
    many thanks,
    Kind regards

  8. Pedro says:


    Women’s Institute.—The monthly meeting was held at the Institute on Wednesday. After the usual business, an excellent demonstration, in cake-making was given by Mrs. Phillips one of the members. The tea hostesses were Mrs Phillips, Mrs. Slyfield and Mrs. Willis. A hearty vote of thanks to Mrs. Phillips was passed with applause. A musical entertainment was provided by Mrs. Willis, which was followed by community singing.

    Tamworth Herald 12 Feb 1927

  9. Peter Edwards says:

    Your 2 posts have been brought to the attention of Villagers today, and are fascinating.

    We live in “The School House” and have done so since 1980. Comments as follows:

    “The Poacher”
    The picture is actually Rose Cottage – the School House is the bit that runs at right angles to School Lane. We have salvaged the old village pump – it’s in our back garden after a tractor & trailer broke it off at ground level! There is no truth in the Church bell being the old school bell – the school bell was saved after the school was converted into housing, it was stored at the back of the Village Hall but unfortunately about 1990 someone nicked it! The Church bell is the original from 1883 and has been refurbished, so it IS rung for Church services.

    “Taking the hints”
    The old school gates ARE original – they lead on to what was the old school quad and we use them every day to secure our cars!
    The building known as “The School House” was built about 1728 – it together with Rose Cottage was originally 3 cottages, converted to 2. It used to be the Headmaster’s house from which he ran the school, but James Chadwick built a new school about 1860, just to the east – you can see it on one photo with the bell tower.

    Might have more info if you ask!

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