A found connection


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.

Way back last year, Patricia Cotton sent in the above photo of her brother Tony, family friends Dora Rathbone and her son Bob enjoying a picnic and a paddle in 1955 by the canal in Brownhills, aroundabout where the banks of the old clay pit are today.

The photo is a wonderful period image – but what made it doubly interesting was it gave a date that the remains of the South Staffordshire Water surge stack was at least still extant to, although greatly truncated.

This chimney-like stack, stack, subject of intense debate, and rediscovered thanks to water historians David Moore and Chris Pattison has been a recurring theme here on the blog. 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 finally removed once and for all has been the subject of much debate.

Shortly after I featured Pat’s photo last September, the Clayhnager Kid himself, Brian Stringer mailed me to point out he’d found the broken pipe that used to connect to the stack, still buried on the old rail embankment, which Brian has worked so hard to clear for cyclists and walkers.

Brian said:


I wonder how much of the original water main remains buried in the embankment? Image kindly supplied by Brian Stringer, and carelessly forgotten by me.

Hello Bob

What a delightful photo Pat has sent in. It’s an idyllic look into my childhood.

I remember swimming in the canal by the stack but didn’t realise how enormous it was pre-my day. A close up of the photo shows the relief pipe coming out of the railway embankment and last year while working on the old railway track I discovered the bottom half of the pipe still in the ground.


You can see the pipe clearly on this blown-up segment of Pat’s photo.

I promised Bob a photo so here it is. I’ll make sure I clear the area a bit next week.


Sadly, I overlooked Brian’s mail until he reminded me earlier today with a comment here – sorry Brian, most remiss of me – my humble apologies, and thanks for a very significant and quite important find! If the weather isn’t too bad I’ll go looking myself soon to see if I can locate said pipe.

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 and apologies to Brian for my overlooking an excellent contribution. If you have anything to add, please do: either comment here or mail me – BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com.

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.

This entry was posted in Brownhills stuff, Clayhanger stuff, Environment, Events, Followups, Interesting photos, Local Blogs, Local History, Local media, News, Reader enquiries, Shared media, Shared memories, Spotted whilst browsing the web, Walsall community and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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