You are my Sunnyside

A nice gentle one for a Saturday afternoon here, and people interested in the borderlands between Aldridge and Walsall Wood, known as The Vigo – David Evans have been in conversation with local man Ken Massey, who lived there in a more rural time, and has kindly donated mages of the farm and life there.

We’ve covered The Vigo before, both in terms of history and physical landscape, which David Evans has explored thoroughly, as the area is very significant to him, having also grown up nearby.

These images remind us of a surprisingly recent time when the area was less industrial and more bucolic – and the recollections are fascinating. I thank Ken and David profusely for yet more wonderful work and a great contribution to our collective local history.

If you have anything to add, please do: comment here or mail me – BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com.

Ken Massey wrote:

image001

Photo kindly supplied by Ken Massey via David Evans.

My Uncle Jack Wootton working in the clay hole on the left of Coppice lane, travailing from the Walsall Wood road. The date of the photograph is about 1960 not long before he retired as the other two men are his apprentices that took over blasting the clay out. By this time they had progressed to pneumatic drills to bore out the shot holes, Uncle Jack had used hand drills for years.

Uncle Jack lived in Salters road with my aunt Minnie and cousin Frank. He didn’t live long after he retired. We would sit on our bikes on the railway bridge and watch frim drill and load up the shot holes and then dinner time the gang would all climb on the dumper and go up the ramp to the canteen. Uncle Jack would then light the fuses and retire to his cabin. Usually two or three faces were worked on, uncle Jack kept one face in front of the digger gang.

image003

Photo kindly supplied by Ken Massey via David Evans.

A Welsh/Arab yearling filly, belonging to Norman Miller. The location was the small meadow on the corner of Walsall Wood Road and Coppice Lane where B&M now stands this was rented from Aldridge Council. Approximate date late spring 1960 or 1961, in the back ground is Sunnyside farm (Tailors Transport). Over the back of the pony is the gable end of Vigo Farm house, soon after Norman Miller rented this from Joberns Holdings. In the near background is Coppice Lane at that time after the brickworks had finished for the day and at weekends it was a quiet country lane where the local kids learnt to ride there bikes. On the left hand side is the near completed landfill or tip, where Big K was to stand.

image005

Photo kindly supplied by Ken Massey via David Evans.

Four foals and the Welsh/Arab filly at Virgo Farm about late autumn 1962, the year of the big freeze 1962/3. Across the field to the left are the Prefabs in Vigo road; through the hedge are some newer houses probably council houses. And further up the original houses from Vigo corner to Sunnyside drive. And to the right of them are the new builds in the Back Lane, at this time Mr Simkins had still got his piece of land in Back Lane where he grew vegetables.

image007

Photo kindly supplied by Ken Massey via David Evans.

Two of the small foals at Vigo Farm 1962, in the background you can see some of the house and buildings that made up Vigo Farm. The building on the left is a stable block with room fore four ponies or cobs. This end of the building was a tack room with a door through to the stable (the tack room door is seen open). On this end had been two traditional pig sties with covered housing and runs with feeding troughs, but while the place was empty they and the stable had been vandalised. It took a lot of work to repair the stable and tack room; this was built with blue engendering bricks and would have been built much later than the main house and barn.

The large gable end is Sunnyside row and what I can remember is that there were two cottages in the row with central entry. Dave Hatton and his wife lived in this end cottage, they where an old Walsall Wood family.

The house was very interesting; it consisted of three bedrooms with fireplaces in each. A curved staircase exited into the middle bedroom and you walked through the end of the middle bedroom to access the other two rooms. Each room had a window. The rooms had at some time been wallpapered and the lining paper was pages from The Farmer and Stockbreeder, dated 1952 we where told that people by the name of Popalton had lived there at this time.

Downstairs consisted of three main rooms with a small scullery or dairy with a raised stone sittall along one side, and a number of meat hooks in the roof, you could imagine a couple of sides of bacon hanging from them, this room had probably been added later. There was a kitchen with a small range that had been smashed and a brown stone sink that miraculously was intact. A back door exited to a brick garden path. The middle room had a larger range also smashed, and a wooden mantle shelf. A medium sized window and the front door led into this room, the other room possible the sitting room or the front parlour had been plaster boarded and a modern for that time tiled fire place fitted. This room would not have looked out of place with a two seated settee, an arm chare a radiogram and a small 50s black a white television in the corner.

The barn was nothing spectacular; the one end had two small buildings added on as lean-tos. This end was set out as a thrashing barn with two double doors and space each side to store a cut crop (wheat or oats). The space inside the double doorway would be used for thrashing out the grain and the draft passing through the doorway was used to winnow out the chaff from the corn. The remaining third of the barn was a loosebox with a hay loft over the top and a space to feed a hayrack for the loosebox. On the end of the barn was a lean-to brew house, housing a large copper boiler and at least two stone Belfast sinks and a well. This building had been completely vandalised and demolished, but we did salvage the two sinks to feed pigs in.

Norman Miller, family and friends rented Vigo Farm from Joberns Holdings from the very early 60s to the later part of the 60s. Norman lived in Walton road and worked for Baraett & Beddows for a very long time. Horses and pones where kept at Vigo farm and some pigs where bred and fattened there.

Ken Massey

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5 Responses to You are my Sunnyside

  1. Julie Stretton says:

    Its lovely to see the Vigo and sunny side that’s my nan and grandad David and Ada Hatton i had some great times with them playing on the common opposite there house x Julie Stretton

  2. The mention of the Hattons had me leafing through my late Aunt Mary’s autobiographical notes. She was born Ethel Mary Horton at Fishponds Cottage in 1913, the eldest of my dad’s siblings, but brought up at The Vigo. Bill was her next oldest brother. Mary writes:

    “….people named Hatton who lived in a small house surrounded by the clay hole…. must have farmed the land before selling it… they had no water. For washing they got water from a pool, for drinking water they walked up to the spring on the main road to Aldridge from Walsall Wood. They wore a shoulder yoke with a bucket on a chain hanging from each end. They walked about half a mile in order to get lovely sparkly water. It was one of their ducks Bill and I caught: One day Bill and I were the only ones at the tip so we went round the pools. There was a duck on one tiny pool. We decided to catch it, kill it, and take it home to Mam knowing it would please her. We got the poor duck trapped between us – it came towards me- I sat on it – Bill held the poor thing’s body while I pulled its head until its neck broke, as I had seen Dad do when killing a cockerel. We put it among the cinders and took it home.”

  3. david oakley says:

    What a host of memories these old photographs stir up, and a sincere thank you to Ken and David for making them accessible, a real treat for us old ‘uns. Jack Wootton lived next door-but-one to me in Salters Road, and to see him, all those years ago, cap set at that familiar jaunty angle, was a delight, I was also good friends with his son, Frank, the same age as myself.
    I remember Hatton’s living at Sunnyside cottages with their children, Ray, Noreen and Joyce, all similar age to me, and the common, mentioned by Julie, which stretched from the cottages to Vigo Road, no access to the cottages, other than paths, formed by residents and visitors over many years.
    Mr. Poppleton lived at the farm in the ‘30’s and ‘40’s, something of a ‘gentleman farmer’, never saw too much activity on the farm, but always drove a pony and trap on his excursions within the village.
    Nice to see Ken’s mention of ‘the back lane’, This little unmade thoroughfare had no other name in my day. A narrow sandy lane which ran from the end if the old houses in Aldridge Road to Mr. Cresswell’s house on the edge of Sunnyside common.
    Now to Susan Marie’s Ward’s ‘Aunt Mary’. This lady is a real gem, in my book. Aunt Mary has been featured on the blog previously. Living in one if the old houses in Aldridge Road, in grinding poverty in the ‘20’s and ‘30’s, this lady had given a lively account of daily life as she saw it. The killing of the duck seems unforgivable nowadays, but gnawing hunger had triggered off worse offences over the years. ‘Family’ links were very strong in those days, you survived as a family, and Mary’s comment ‘take it home to Mam, knowing it would please her’. Her current errand is a clue, ‘we put it among the cinders, and took it home’ Cinder picking from the tip was often a daily task and a social occasion, families would chat and catch up in what was going on in the little world which encapsulated ‘The Vigo’. Cinders were ‘half burnt coal’. Poor people would riddle the ash and collect their own cinders ,which were capable of lighting a fire and keeping it burning, similar to coke. More affluent folk would tip the whole lot into the dustbin, a bonus to the ‘cinder pickers. Interestingly, the ‘tip’ must have been the old one, on the boundary between Walsall Wood and Aldridge, which was condemned and removed about 1930, before the new tipping commenced on the low-lying ground between Salters Road and Brook Lane, resulting in the creation of Coronation Road in 1937.

  4. david oakley says:

    What a host of memories these old photographs stir up, and a sincere thank you to Ken and David for making them accessible, a real treat for us old ‘uns. Jack Wootton lived next door-but-one to me in Salters Road, and to see him, all those years ago, cap set at that familiar jaunty angle, was a delight, I was also good friends with his son, Frank, the same age as myself.
    I remember Hatton’s living at Sunnyside cottages with their children, Ray, Noreen and Joyce, all similar age to me, and the common, mentioned by Julie, which stretched from the cottages to Vigo Road, no access to the cottages, other than paths, formed by residents and visitors over many years.
    Mr. Poppleton lived at the farm in the ‘30’s and ‘40’s, something of a ‘gentleman farmer’, never saw too much activity on the farm, but always drove a pony and trap on his excursions within the village.
    Nice to see Ken’s mention of ‘the back lane’, This little unmade thoroughfare had no other name in my day. A narrow sandy lane which ran from the end if the old houses in Aldridge Road to Mr. Cresswell’s house on the edge of Sunnyside common.
    Now to Susan Marie’s Ward’s ‘Aunt Mary’. This lady is a real gem, in my book. Aunt Mary has been featured on the blog previously. Living in one if the old houses in Aldridge Road, in grinding poverty in the ‘20’s and ‘30’s, this lady had given a lively account of daily life as she saw it. The killing of the duck seems unforgivable nowadays, but gnawing hunger had triggered off worse offences over the years. ‘Family’ links were very strong in those days, you survived as a family, and Mary’s comment ‘take it home to Mam, knowing it would please her’. Her current errand is a clue, ‘we put it among the cinders, and took it home’ Cinder picking from the tip was often a daily task and a social occasion, families would chat and catch up in what was going on in the little world which encapsulated ‘The Vigo’. Cinders were ‘half burnt coal’. Poor people would riddle the ash and collect their own cinders ,which were capable of lighting a fire and keeping it burning, similar to coke. More affluent folk would tip the whole lot into the dustbin, a bonus to the ‘cinder pickers. Interestingly, the ‘tip’ must have been the old one, on the boundary between Walsall Wood and Aldridge, which was condemned and removed about 1930, before the new tipping commenced on the low-lying ground between Salters Road and Brook Lane, resulting in the creation of Coronation Road in 1937.

  5. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    just noticed David’s reference to the double fronted cottage that was owned by a Mr Creswell..who was a trustee of Walsall Wood Wesley Methodist Church, which stood opposite the St Johns medical Centre, in Walsall Wood HIgh Street. His son, Rev Amos Creswell shares ( shared) the same birth date as Queen Elizabeth II.I believe a tv news report of them celebrating their 90th birthdays at an important function was broadcast then. Yes, he spoke a few words to the assembled VIPs.!!
    kind regards
    David

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