The wonderful and kind local historian Robert Selvey has generously donated another local history classic to the blog archive for readers to enjoy, and this one’s a cracker – it’s Old Heath Hayes, the companion ‘Green Book’ title to the ‘Old Chasetown’ book donated by Stuart and posted here a couple of weeks ago.
It’s another, nearly hundred page work packed with photos and information, written and compiled by John Bucknall and J Francis under the wing of R Lewis, and this is a sad one as the first page notes – it records the retirement of Mr. Lewis.
The introduction notes the following:
Having already been principally involved in the production of the illustrated booklet ‘Old Chasetown’ for the Staffordshire Authority, I thought that, on transfer to a Heath Hayes school, it might be possible to produce something of similar interest for the Heath Hayes area. After all, the villages of Heath Hayes and Chasetown seem to have had surprisingly similar patterns of development, from desolation and heathland to thriving village communities as the exploitation of coal commenced. In fact two of the collieries in the Heath Hayes area were owned and developed by the Cannock Chase Colliery Company as a widening of its interests from its Chasetown base, 8’s pit and 6’s both being to the east of the Wimblebury Road from Five Ways island. The former was opened in 1862, remaining in production until 1961, while 6’s colliery (the Cannel – so named because it produced worthwhile ‘Cannel’ coal for specialised usage) was only of limited life, opening in 1866 and closing in 1874. Both spoil heaps are still visible, but now of course fully overgrown by trees, shrubs and smaller vegetation as nature reclaims her own. Such is the variety of vegetation on a site of previous intense human exploitation and activity, that in 1986 a class of children undertaking Natural History work on the site discovered a wild orchid, very happy with life among the coal-dust and shale. By quirk of fate it seems that the return to the wild might be shortlived, as further intensive opencast mining is being proposed for the area, modern methods using giant machines being able to recover coal which in the days of the deep mines was either too shallow to mine safely, or was or limited seam thickness and therefore unprofitable to mine. Todays economics are however different. With deep coal mined from the Chase’s two remaining pits, Lea Hall and Huntington, vast quantities or shallower coal with far less sulphur content than produced from these deep mines is required to blend with the latter to satisfy the enormous needs in the production of electrical energy by the C.E.G.B.
Robert Selvey kindly scanned the book from his own collection and assembled a very professional PDF file which you can download below. Thanks to him for the hard work and dedication, without this kind gentleman our history would be much the poorer. Respect.
You can also peruse the first 20 pages in the gallery at the foot of this post; click any page to see a legible version.
Like the Brownhills book, this is a remarkable work, completed long before the internet- and I bet it’ll raise a few questions and debates amongst readers.
Maybe you remember the book, or were involved in some way. I’d love to hear your story.
You can comment here or mail me: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com.