The Portman Collection – part one: Meet the staff


Image 1: I’m gong to give the images numbers for discussion purposes: A group of 15 staff. Photo generously supplied by Tony Portman via David Evans. Click for a larger version.


Tony’s notes for image 1. Click for a larger version.

In the first serialised article of what will turn out to be quite a few, here’s the first three photos from Walsall Wood Secondary School in the 1950s with accompanying notes, as introduced last week in this blog post here – This time, I am including the handwritten notes by Tony himself below each image.

I shall post the photos in batches of three so we aren’t swamped with too much information at once – and these ones all feature staff lineups. I shan’t comment on the notes directly, or attempt to transcribe: these are clearly a matter for readers as they obviously raise questions as well as answer them – and the last thing I want to do is lead the witnesses!

Thanks to Tony Portman who generously granted access to a remarkable collection, and to David Evans for scanning them so diligently. People like you gentlemen are keeping local history alive. Thank you.

Please, any comments, contributions or observations welcome. Either comment here, or mail me: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com.


Image 2 – Clearly something was a laughing matter, and that chap front right looks a. somewhat delightfully flamboyant and b. a bit of a character. Photo generously supplied by Tony Portman via David Evans. Click for a larger version.


Tony’s notes for image 2. Click for a larger version.


Image 3 – a large group that possibly seems to feature older pupils as well as staff. Photo generously supplied by Tony Portman via David Evans. Click for a larger version.


Tony’s notes for image 3. Click for a larger version.

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20 Responses to The Portman Collection – part one: Meet the staff

  1. Hilary says:

    Photo 2. back row, 4th from the left is Richard Addis, Mom’s cousin and photo 3, front row, 4th from the left is Shirley Kempson.

  2. david oakley says:

    Hi Bob,
    Splendid, more Portman pictures. S’ava look.
    On looking at Image One, I am nonplussed for a moment . Those names ? So familiar, yet the faces are complete strangers to me. Ah yes, now I remember, the ceaseless chatter of my younger brethren, more than sixty years ago, preparing for school. Teacher’s names. I give a superior sniff, and returned to my copy of the ‘Hotspur’, recently exchanged for the ‘Wizard’. These comics ‘did the rounds’ in those days.
    Image Three. Who do I know-w-w ?? I peruse it carefully. No one! I skip down to the names below and two stand out, Elsie Ford and Marion Danks, amongst the girls. I return to the photo and armed with the names, I can identify both girls immediately. Little Miss Ford, daughter of Harold Ford, coalminer, worked at the ‘Coppy’, lived a few doors down from me in Salters Road, she was handy with a skipping rope, if I remember right, an Ella Fisher’ expert. While Miss Danks, you won’t see her in Walsall Wood just now, she married Bill Ward from Walsall and emigrated to ‘Trevor Brown’ country nearly fifty years ago.
    Satisfied ? Of course I am. These tiny bits of nostalgia are like oxygen to me. So keep ‘em coming, Bob. And my thanks again to the instigators of this little series, Tony and David.

    • David Evans says:

      Hi David
      help..who or what was an Ella Fisher, please…..daresent think!
      kind regards
      David, the younger

      • david oakley says:

        Digging deep into my boyhood memories, David, an ‘Ella Fisher’ was a skipping technique in which the rope passes under the rising feet, three times. The fourth time the speed of the rope is greatly increased and passes twice under the rising feet in a single lift. e.g. one-one-one-two, one- one- one-two. The chant was Ella Fish-er number one, Ella Fish-er number two and so on. Expert skippers could move into double figures, before becoming breathless.

  3. Trevor Wood says:

    Hi Dave
    Marion Danks was my auntie and lived at 19 Oak road she had two sisters Joan and Doreen
    Joan was my mother who married my father Charles Wood from 58 salters Road he had a brother Ron (my uncle)

    It was Doreen who married Bill and moved to Australia

    Marion married Peter Harvey and lived in Fullelove Road Brownhills
    My father Charles and my mother Joan together with uncle Ron and his wife moved to Norton Canes when our houses were “condemned” in New Street Numbers 4 & 6 (Now Pauls Coppice)

    With the exception of my uncle Ron all have now “Passed On”

  4. david oakley says:

    Hi Trevor,
    Thanks for the information regarding the Danks girls. My word, aren’t they similar? Grieved to hear that these lovely people are no longer around. I had relatives myself in New Street. The Corfield’s. Know them ? Kind regards.

    • Trevor Wood says:


      Trevor Corfield was my best friend went all through school with him he lives in Stoke on
      Trent now ( I was his best man at his wedding) we still stay in touch
      Seem to think they lived at number 17 ( next door to the Lindens)
      I can re call the whole family:- Bill Emma Malcolm Brian Jeff Doreen Brenda Trevor

      • davidoakley says:

        Thanks, Trevor,
        Very pleased to know you knew the Corfield’s so well. Uncle Bill was my Mom’s brother. Visited regularly as a youngster, but lost touch later. Never knew the girls. My knowledge ended with Jeff, who I remember as the ‘babby’ at the time. Used to go for a pint with Uncle Bill in his declining years at his beloved Friezland Lane W.M. Club. I worked with Malcolm as a projectionist at the ‘Blood Tub’, Walsall Wood, about sixty-five years ago. Have seen him since. So glad you keep in touch with Trevor. Great Family !

        • Trevor Wood says:

          Did your grandparents live in a “Double Fronted” house in Common side? I know Trevor Corfields did. I used to go there with him

          • david oakley says:

            No, Trevor. Bill Corfield’s parents lived in Coppice Road, Walsall Wood. Emma was named Clarke before she married, and her parents lived on Linden Road, near the Black Pad, but that was back in the 1930’s when I was a child. They may have moved to Commonside later, or some other Clarke relative may have lived there, Cheers, mate.

  5. Rob Brownhills says:

    On the second picture in the school playground were the houses on Brownhills rd ? if so what is the structure to the left that looks like the wheel at the pit, I wouldn’t have thought it would be seen from that angle

    • David Evans says:

      Hi Rob
      the row of houses, originally called Ingles Row , I believe( census shows a large family..canal boatmen ..lived there for a few years) ,was more or less opposite no 26 Brownhills Road, and comprised back to back dwellings.
      Mrs Barker’s husband was the headteacher at the Junior School just across the playground . He is seen in the staff photo for that school. featured in previous blog articles. I understand that the classroom seen in the photo contained the village’s first library – perhaps David Oakley, our northern skipping correspondent, can give more details.
      Thanks for your note, Rob.
      kind regards

      • davidoakley says:

        Hi Rob,
        Touche ! David. The ‘Ingles Row’ cottages were built at a right-angle to Brownhills Road, which could account for the confusion. They were regularly tenanted and in the ‘30’s and ‘40’s, two families, the Downes and the Maddox’s had sons who could almost ‘roll out of bed and into school’. Much to the envy of us from farther afield. Regarding the first library, this classroom was originally the abode of 3A, Mr. Hamer’s class, a keen disciplinarian, who, with a smile on his face, and a merry quip, would cane all his malefactors very heartily across the bottom, in full view of the assembled class. Female offenders were sent to Miss Broadley. This room did, in fact, become a free library after I left in 1943, after washing the blood from the walls, and I used it myself in my late teenage. The first library, run as a commercial venture, was situated in the Post Office, controlled by Mr.Smith, the Postmaster, in the 1930’s or even earlier. At 2d a book. The jurisdiction for this was given to Miss Griffiths, senior assistant on the Post Office side, who would stamp the books on loan, accept payment, after a book was selected from the few shelves sandwiched between the post office counter and the chemist side.

        • My father Albert (Bert) Maddox and his brother Stan were bought up in the cottage in the background. They moved there from Caldmore just after my father was born in the 1920’s. My Grandad worked in the Coppice (Copy) Pit until he retired through ill health,
          he died in 1960. The property was condemned in the early ’60’s and my Gran moved into a council bungalow just off Paul’s Coppice in Brownhills. She died in the mid ’70’s.I have fond memories of visiting them at the cottage and as a youngster watching the schoolchildren in the playground. I was born in 1952 and mid ’50’s my parents moved to the prefab estate – Vigo Terrace, off Vigo Road. So I was destined to go the that school and Mr Faid was our Headmaster. We were lucky to move the new Shire Oak school in 1967. (still have the opening programme). There was a larger property side on to Brownhills Road who I believe were the landlords. I think their surname was Mycock (may be wrong). I now live in Norton Canes and pass the school frequently in the car. It seems sad as there are no indications of any properties having been on that site at all. More so now the new sports centre has been built in the adjacent field. I remember it full of corn with a small brick built hut in the middle where they used to store the explosives for the pit. Look forward to anyone else that remembers the area.

          • David Evans says:

            Hi Stuart
            you may remember the Orgill family from those cottages, perhaps? “Ingles Row2 seems to have taken its name from a family of canal bargees( oops; narrowboat steersmen) who lived there..but the Ingle family seem to have left the district a long long while ago.
            My grandparents lived across the Brownhills Road..and the name Mycock certainly rings a bell
            Many thanks for your comment Stuart, and my kind regards

            • Stuart Maddox says:

              I remember my Gran talking about a Mrs Orgill but in what conection I have no idea. My Father passed away six years ago and sadly there is on one of his generation left to ask now. I never heard the cottages called Ingles Row2 before and as I said in my last post my Father and family moved there in the 1920’s so the name may well have beeen forgotten over the years..

            • Brian Rogers says:

              Hi Brian Rogers here I was at school with Maureen Orgill in 1954 new the family well

  6. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    I wonder if there were other skipping chants in youngsters repertoire in days gone by…
    Miss Barbara Ash was a cookery teacher and she is seen in the home cinefilm featured on this blog some while ago, when she was teaching in Shelfield Seconday Modern school.
    kind regards

    • david oakley says:

      Hi Bob,
      A further memory from ‘The northern skipping correspondent’:- Another skipping variation that springs to mind was entitled ‘Eavy-Weavy’. A longish rope was needed with two turners. Several competitors lined the rope as it lay on the floor between the turners. At a signal, the rope was lifted to about four inches from the floor and was moved backwards and forwards. The trick was to jump sufficiently high to avoid the rope on its backwards and forwards, pendelum-style journey. The chant was “eavy-Weavy” from the turners, in time to the rope movement. After a short while the turners would step back a little, causing the rope to rise higher from the floor and the pendelum movement would get faster, the ‘eavy weavy’ chant would increase in pitch, making it difficult for the competitors to jump the rope or to time their jump properly. You were ‘out’ if you impeded the rope by failing to jump at the right time. Last girl left in, was the winner.

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