Local butchers: What’s you beef?

I’ve had lots of contributions of the ongoing surprise topic of local butchers shops, and this great one from railway expert Ian Pell, who set the whole thing off a couple pf weeks ago – I’ll post the others in due course.

I had no idea that butchery – a relatively mundane topic I would have thought – would provoke such debate and I invite further contributions on the matter not just of meat purveyors, but other shops and trades in the local area, too.

Thanks to Ian for yet another wonderful contribution: the man’s breadth of contribution to local history seems to get wider by the week! Fantastic stuff.

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

Hi Bob

Following on from the ‘Let’s have a quick butchers…’ article; I recently unearthed this photo of a rather fine gentleman in his Sunday best!  I hate to think what he had been up to, and while I think the photo was taken at one of my auntie’s in Pelsall, I really have no idea.  I can only say it was taken in the 1950s.


Ian Pell’s father: a fine butcher. Image kindly supplied by Ian.

Dad’s occupation when he joined the army in late 1942 was given as butcher and both he and one of his brothers continued as butches after the war.  Tragically, Lawrence, the older brother, killed himself in 1956.  For a time dad worked for the Co-op before starting up on his own (I believe in Walsall Wood).  It would appear that the venture was not a success and he re-joined the Co-op moving to one of their branches in Sutton Coldfield in the early 1960’s.  He was very happy there, until the shop closed in the late 1970’s and he moved to run the Co-op butcher’s shop in Brownhills High Street and then the precinct. 

My fondest memories of him were of this time of the year and the run-up to Christmas.  This would often mean very early starts and late finishes.  On Christmas Eve he would always keep a turkey in reserve.  There were always those who tried to snap up a late bargain, but there was also an elderly lady in Brownhills who would turn up late on Christmas Eve with no money and after some banter and protests that nothing remained in the shop, he would then produce the turkey to the very appreciative lady.  This seemed to go on for some years.

There were also the regulars; some still coming from Sutton Coldfield; some with pheasants and other game birds that they asked him to pluck and prepare.  I can remember on one occasion at Sutton, an ostrich appearing.  The story told that it was from some place near Twycross, or some where or other!

I tried to help him in the shop, but my idea of holding meat is by the very ends of the fingers, and so I was reduced to cleaning and slopping out duties.  The shops were always COLD, the store rooms COLDER and I won’t mention the fridge.  It was warmer to stand in the snow and wind outside!  Often I would huddle literally on top of the single-bar electric fire for any degree of warmth available, but to little avail.  It was not for me.  He, on the other hand, always appeared cheerful and content.  He loved people and you always knew when there was a twinkle in his eye that mischief was afoot.

About a year of so before he retired, he dropped a whole side of frozen beef and broke his big toe.  For about a month he was laid-up at home, unable to walk.  It was the only time I ever saw him rest.

I am most appreciative for the comments regarding the butchers of “The Wood”, and hope the above rambling may further jog some memories.

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5 Responses to Local butchers: What’s you beef?

  1. aerreg says:

    a favorite story of mine was about a well known butcher on brownhills high st A E POXON a master of skill and politness so mutch so ladies would give up their place in the shop just to be served by him he made all his customers feel special another memory of that shop was MRS WIGLEY sitting so proudly at the cash desk thanks again for the memory god bless

  2. Les Bullock says:

    I think you may be talking about my dad there Reg. I have heard stories of ladies who always insisted that they were served by ‘Wilf”.

  3. Les Bullock says:

    p.s. Thanks for the photos etc. last week Reg.
    Best Regards

  4. Nate says:

    I love hearing stories about butchers like this. There really is something special about butchers who love the trade and keeping the old school tradition alive.

  5. Royston Watkins says:

    Does anyone remember Chas Hales butcher in the 1950s. He had a butchers shop in Walsall Wood High Street, just before the canal bridge. He had an ape in a cage outside at the rear of the shop.Also a racehorse in the stables. Let me know if you can corroborate this story. I spoke to someone years ago who said he had other animals there, but I am unable to confirm this.
    Royston Watkins

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