We free men


I had to scan it quickly before it decomposed. I think this bookseller had a mask and pistol… but here it is: Men of Aldridge, published in 1957 and written by Jim Gould.

Following the posting here of part one of Jim Gould’s wonderful book ‘Men of Aldridge’, last week, which was inspired by a great contribution from reader Brian Edwards, I now feature the second half of the book for you to download and read.

If you missed part one, click here to get it.

I have read the whole book, but I’m not going to comment on the contents because I want to see what you readers think and I’d rather not lead the witnesses, so to speak… Suffice it to say Jim Gould was clearly a man of no little talent and charisma, and I pay tribute to an interesting, engaging and fascinating work.

Please, feel free to download the PDF at the link below, and have a good read. The file is optimised, and a better scan than part one. It’s been straightened and is searchable for text.

It’s a big file and may take a while to download on slower connections.

Men of Aldridge Part one Chapters IX-XIII plus appendix PDF format 18 megabytes

This is a fascinating book and I recommend it to anyone interested not only in Aldridge and it’s local history, but in Jim Gould too.

Please feel free to comment, and let me know what you spot – there’s even a reference or two in there to early Brownhills! Go for it – post your thoughts here, or mail me – BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Cheers.

A gallery of the first 20 pages is below – click on any image to see the full size scan.

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10 Responses to We free men

  1. Pedro says:

    Page 87

    “Accounts from Methodists’ sources are rather more lurid but add nothing to our knowledge about Methodists at Aldridge.”

    Walsall Wood is so very lucky to have young David’s lurid accounts of Methodist History!

    Only joking David, your accounts are very lucid!

  2. David Evans says:

    Hi Pedro
    … There’s not enough “lurid” about, nowadays!
    Noted; the recorded antipathy of C of E vicar to newboys Wesleyan Methodists!. Circuit minutes for the Primitive Methodists were kept, in some detail, in fact and are to be found in the archives at Lichfield library. I would expect the Wesleyan circuit minutes to be as detailed and in archives somewhere, too .
    I think all were kept in Stafford Records at the time Mr Gould penned his book.

    I wonder what Andy Dennis knows of the naughty highwaymen of Brownhills!


  3. Pedro says:

    Interesting to see that Mr Gould describes the Rev J Finch Smith as strongly against Non Conformists. This was around the time of the Rev J Poole of Burntwood who, although ant-Catholic, showed some sympathy towards the Methodists. Perhaps this was the reason he did not look after the new church of St. Anne at Chasetown!

  4. Clive says:

    Thanks for the download Bob.

  5. Thanks for this Bob. I am going to enjoy reading this again. It’s been a while since I read it.

  6. Pedro says:

    The book refers to the uncertain beginning of coal mining in the Aldridge area, and talks of Leighswood, Coppy Hall and Aldridge Collieries.

    The Aldridge collieries were in what was termed the “concealed coalfield”, including Walsall Wood, bounded by the Clayhanger and Vigo faults, and would also include Speedwell Colliery. Pelsall on the other hand was at the southern end of the Cannock Chase Coalfield just above the boundary being the Bentley fault.

    According to o the CCMHS Coppy Hall was first mined by the Rev Bailey Williams in 1857, Speedwell in 1849, Leighswood and Aldridge in 1874.

  7. Pedro says:

    “One may disagree with the Rector’s intolerance, but his energy and sincerity demand respect.” (Men Of Aldridge, speaking of Rev J Finch Smith, Page 86)

    If anyone demands respect it is the miners of the Aldridge collieries whose energy fed their families to the detriment of their health, while providing a good living for the coal owners. The Rev Smith came from a wealthy family, he had a good university education, entered the Church and lived a comfortable life doing the job he was paid for. Maybe he should be respected for the ability to get the congregation to put their hands in their pockets.

    • Pedro says:

      One person who did not respect Mr Finch Smith was PJ Wright of Longdon, when writing to the Staffordshire advertiser in November 1850….

      “The inhabitants of England have received a bull from Pope Pious of Rome; the dwellers in Devon and Cornwall know something of the Bulls of Pope Henry of Exeter, and the good people of Staffordshire were favoured, on Saturday last, with a bull from Pope Smith of Aldridge. With the controversy in the Church of England, respecting Puseyism, I shall not interfere, except to remind the Reverent Smith, in the words of St Paul, that “everyman that striveth for mastery should be temperate in all things.” I write being a minister in the Methodist New Conexeion, to rebuke the bigotry of the firey zealot who dares, while professing to wage war with Popery, to represent the members of the dissenting churches as schismatics and aliens….

      …. The fierce and scornful refusal of the Reverend F Smith to acknowledge dissenters as “Christian Brethren” would excite a smile, were it not repressed by feelings of pity for the man who declares himself a bigot, while he holds the office Christian minister. The son of God is “not ashamed to call them Brethren.” And the same infallible authority tells us “whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother.”

  8. Peter Ford says:

    The car in the picture at the start of the book was my father’s Bedford dormobile, ROG 639. My sister is in the passenger seat. Rev Finch Smith wrote two books about Aldridge in 1889. The new Church Centre in the Green has copies of these, “Men of Aldridge” and a large collection of Aldridge Parish magazines, which ran from about 1886 to 1989.

  9. Pat Bell says:

    Thank you for posting this. I likely descended from a long line of Nicholas Aldridges, and history is my profession, so Chapters Two through Four are of great interest to me. Ancestry.com has all my Nicholas Aldridges in Wiltshire and Hampshire counties during the 15th through 17th centuries. I wonder ….

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