Caught short on the Pelsall Road


A brilliant 1955 photo from Patricia Cotton, showing Dora Rathbone, nee Hemming, her son Bob and Patricia Cotton’s brother, Tony, paddling in the canal near the Jolly Collier. On the horizon is an rather interesting structure… Image very kindly supplied by Patricia Cotton.

I’ve received via Facebook from very generous reader Patricia Cotton who’s send a very interesting picture, not just because it’s a wonderful period photo, but because lurking on the skyline is an indication of something being present several people dispute.

Patricia says of the image – which couldn’t be more 1950s if it tried:

Hi Bob,

Looking through old photos and found this one of my mom’s friend with her son Bob and my brother Tony.

It was taken at the side of Jolly Collier bridge in 1955 and you can see the water tower in the distance off Pelsall Road.

The lady in the picture’s maiden name was Dora Heming, married name Rathbone, she was my mom’s bridesmaid and lived opposite us in Clifton Avenue…

We used to take picnics there in the summer, happy memories.


Thanks to Patricia – what a wonderful photo!

Remember the surge stack, subject of intense debate, and rediscovered thanks to David Moore and Chris Pattison? We established that the 100 foot high chimney-like structure, once present next to the railway embankment by the canal just near to the Pelsall Road in Brownhills, had been truncated at some point.

Exactly when this odd landmark was demolished has been the subject of much debate.


A shortened surge stack, viewed possibly from the Pelsall Road or embankment nearby. Note the pipe linking it to the main. Image very kindly supplied by Gerald Reece.

Gerald Reece posted the above photo of the foreshortened stack still clearly proud of the railway embankment in the post-WW2 period, which I think is in the 1960s, but without a definite date – the the image shows the gardens of what seem to be new houses, and fairly modern fencing.

Patricia’s image, clearly shows the cropped stack in 1955. Here it is, just right of centre on the horizon:


Gerald’s image seems to be later due to the growth of the bush to the right of the stack, and change in telegraph poles. Portion of an image supplied by Patricia Cotton.

Just so we know what we’re all taking about, I feature an image of the complete stack from the Clayhanger side of the railway. It was quite something in its day.

Thanks to Patricia for another wonderful contribution, and if you have anything to add, please do: either comment here or mail me – BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com.

Little by little, the history emerges….

Brownhills Surge Stack

This 100ft stack was a pressure relief ventilator for the South Staffordshire Water main between Lichfield and the Black Country, and sat at the highest point of the pipe. When it was demolished is hotly disputed. Image posted by Dave Moore on Flickr.

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4 Responses to Caught short on the Pelsall Road

  1. pattcl22 says:

    Thanks for this post Bob. I think it’s fairly well established now that the stack was truncated c.1932 and completely demolished following the abandonment of the Railway Main in 1971. It would be interesting to know whether there are any remains of the foundations in the brambles which now cover the site. I don’t think I’d seen Gerald Reece’s photo before, thanks for including that too. A further point that interests me is whether the 22 inch main was carried on a pipe bridge over the canal on the same side as the stack. The deck doesn’t look deep enough for it to be conveyed under the railway track.

  2. Clive says:

    Lovely photo of kids messing around in the cut, just like being at the seaside. Thanks Patricia and Bob.

  3. Ian says:

    Hi folk
    If you wish to read more about the Surge Tower or the pipeline please refer to the follwing articles which may be of help.
    “Slip, sliding away” 2/3/2013, “Surging forward” 21/12/2012, “Cast in the ground” 16/2/2013,
    With regard to the pipe the railway bridge over the canal certainly shows the probable route of the pipe on the south side (Clayhanger) of the line. I haven’t really examined the canal bridge but I would think that a similar arrangement was made. You are quite correct in that the pipe was NOT under the deck of the railway track.
    I would again like to thank Chris for his assistance in the articles.
    Finally, I have still to discover an exact date when the bottom section and base of the tower were finally demolished. Ironically, I currently working through the British Rail “Weekly Notices” for 1972-73 so you never know something might turn up!
    Hope this is of some help.

  4. Ivor Sperring says:

    Thanks for this photo, Dora was my mother’s cousin, she was very good to me when I was a child, a generous and warm hearted woman. We lodged with the family for a short while, I think it was during WW2. Dora’s sister Molly taught me to read and opened up the fabulous world of literature, for which I will always be grateful

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