As I’m gradually getting better, I’m rebooting and catching up with stuff I’ve missed or neglected, and today, I came across this wonderful piece by Elizabeth Hampton which I’ve been deliberately saving for Mother’s Day, as it’s a lovely, evocative account that documents the hardships her mum went through living in Pike Helve, at the bottom of Pier Street in Brownhills in the 1940s.
Elizabeth contributed a wonderful piece at the same time about the shops and social life of Brownhills with you can read here. It’s well worth it, and I’m sure many older readers will love it.
If you want to find out more about Pike Helve, Pier Street and the the Fortune of War pub, Clive Roberts has covered them all in his most recent book ‘Snippets of Local History in and around Brownhills’ which is still available – see here for details. It’s a great piece of work.
Thanks to Elizabeth for a wonderful glimpse into the social history of Brownhills – and remember – if you have anything to add, please feel free! Comments always welcome: either on this post or to BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Cheers.
Elizabeth Hampton wrote:
I was born in 1938 in South Yardley but moved to Broownhills before I was one and my two brothers born 1940 and 1942 in Brownhills. We also had two elder brothers 10 and 12 years older than me. We lived in the infamous Pier Street just of the High Street [Known as Pike Helve- Bob], My mother and father doing their very best in the terrible rented terrace house for us to keep us clean, well fed and loved.
Against all the problems of no water in the house, only a tap in the yard for all living in the terrace and outside toilets. We have vivid memories of my Dad cutting up newspaper in squares and putting a hole in the corners for the string to go through to hang on the toilet wall.
In the winter of course the tap froze. Once a week we had a bath in front of the kitchen fire. We didn’t change our underwear or socks every day, as Mom only washed once a week on a Monday, when she filled the boiler in the brewhouse and lit the fire under it to boil the water for all the whites. She had a dolly and tub and a big old mangle. She would have to fill the boiler with water from this out door tap and wait for it to get warm before transferring some of it to the tub to start washing her whites.
I cannot remember when Oxydol or Tide came into fashion but I know my Mom always had big slabs of some soap to rub her clothes with. These whites would then go into the boiler with the Dolly Blue
Then into the tub would go the colours she would dolly them and swish them round the tub. I know at the end of the washing would go our Dad’s Pit clothes, these make be thick with dried clay which she would have to hit again the wall to crack up with clay before into the tub they went.
All these clothes would have to go on an outside line and I have again vivid memories of my Mom’s knuckles being open and sometimes bleeding with hanging out these clothes with possibly damp hands.
Then of course she had to roll the tub and empty the water and also the boiler which she would clean out because she shared this brewhouse with our next door neighbour – Mrs Moore and they always left it nice and clean for each other.
My brothers and I are very proud of our upbringing and the way our parents coped at that time. They instilled in us to do our best and have a sense of pride.