What’s up, Cock?

s-l1600

A relatively late postcard of Brownhills – card spotted for sale on eBay from seller ‘mycab’. Click for a larger version.

Here’s a great one for a Bank Holiday weekend from local history author and history whizz Clive Roberts – and we’re interested to see what readers think about it.

Just about everyone interested in Brownhills local history has seen the above postcard showing Brownhills scenes, haven’t they? Fairly typical, postwar images; probably late 50s, early 60s, going by the cars and shops. We have St. James Church, the High Street looking north from the top of Silver Street, and looking south from near the Station Hotel.

And then, a canal scene. The canal scene has always been perplexing.

Note the level of the canal compared to the rooflines. I always tried to apply this to Silver Street mentally and failed.

Clive has been thinking about this image, and has postulated that this isn’t Brownhills at all: He thinks, and I’m inclined to agree, that this is a picture taken from the south eastern flank of the Black Cock Bridge in Bullings Heath, Walsall Wood, looking east towards Walsall and Pelsall.

This I think bears further investigation, and I’d be interested to see what readers think. The closest I can get at the moment is this augmented 3D image from Apple Maps, and the chimneys do correspond, but there seems to be a fair bit missing.

The ground levels appear correct, and the chimneys close, but a fair few buildings have gone. I need a better angle, I think. Image from the remarkable Apple Maps.

If readers have views on this, I’d love to hear them – particularly in reference to the subsidence legends in the area we’ve covered before here and here.

Thanks to Clive for a wonderful observation, and don’t forget folks, Clive’s latest book – ‘The Pubic Houses of Brownhills Part One’ is still available, and it’s a cracker – more on that later in the weekend. Click here for details.

Feel free to comment here or mail me – BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Thanks.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in News. Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to What’s up, Cock?

  1. David Evans says:

    HI Bob
    an excellent question and big thanks to Clive. An afternoon photo? Laying up for the evening?
    Is it possible to identify the narrowboats at all? Can we date the image?
    Thanks for bringing this to light.
    kind regards
    David

  2. Graham says:

    The boats are long distance boats – not the normal BCN joey boats doing day runs to Birmingham & the Black Country.

    The motor nearest to the camera seems to have the insignia of the Willow Wren Company, so that dates it to the 1960’s.

    The unpowered butty is moored against the bank in the normal way. The unpowered boat went in the shallow water near the bank, because it was not so deep in the water as the motor boat, with the weight of it’s engine, and so less likely to go aground..

  3. aerreg says:

    this could be a view looking from the shelfield side of the black cock bridge the stack could be the walsall wood coppy pit the reason for the stop in my mind there were shops in camden street which would be convienient just another of my wacky thoughts HAPPY MAY DAY GOD BLESS

  4. aerreg says:

    just had a thought for a sunny day re my coments on camden street shops who remembers CRADOCKS grocery LILY PRIZE FLOWER and thacker barrows a connection with MOUNT ZION finaly have you got your pigs blader ready for the may pole dancing on monday HA HA THE CONNECTION the flower not the barrows the cradocks were an inportant members of ZION

  5. aerreg says:

    ups FLOUR sorry its my age but both lovely

  6. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    thanks to Graham for the info which raises the question..why were these long distance narrowboats here, if they were not the usual kind…They look low in the water
    kind regards
    David

  7. Alan Harrison says:

    I’m inclined to go with the opinion that it was taken by the Black Cock bridge. The house nearest the cut in the aerial picture seems to match that behind the boats. My mate Roger lived in the house with the farmyard, painted white in the modern pic. Beer at the Black Cock was 1/9 a pint in 1969!

  8. Graham says:

    Firstly let me clarify the dates I gave for the Willow Wren company. They started in 1953 and finished in 1963. So that dates the picture to within a decade.

    There was some long distance trade on the canal. My late friend, and former Walsall Wood boatman, John Blakemore, used to tell me how he envied the smart, brightly painted, long distance boats in comparison with his battered old Joeys.

    Tom Foxon, in his book “No 1” tells of a 1954 voyage from Anglesey Basin to Worcester, he does also claim that, at this time, it was the only regular trade using “cabin” i.e. long distance, boats.

    It is a pity that there is not more detail in the picture. I’m even wondering if there is another boat ahead of the pair at the front of the picture? The boats clearly have a heavy load on them, which we assume was coal but could be something else?

    The man standing on the motor boat could be sheeting up his load. This was done either to keep certain cargoes dry or to keep rain out of the hold, so it doesn’t help in trying to identify the type of cargo. A vertical board has been fitted to the side of the boat, above the gunnels, at the after end of the hold. I think they called these “slack boards” and they were used so that they could load a cargo high in a particular part of the hold so that the captain could get the particular trim he wanted.

    He may have just picked up his load somewhere nearby, and then gone a short distance to allow his crew to go to the shops Reg identified, while he sheeted up. It may have been an overnight stop. In the days of horse boats they would have headed to the stables at the Travellers in Walsall Wood to stable the horse but motors had no such need, especially as there was a pub at the Black Cock Bridge too!

    However, if it is Black Cock Bridge, looking at the direction of the sun, it must be morning, as the sun is coming from the south east. So they may have loaded early, Tom Foxon says that cabin boats got priority when loading, and travelled to the Black Cock to buy fresh provisions and perhaps a quick bite of breakfast. If this is the case perhaps someone with better local knowledge than me can speculate where that might have been – Anglesey Basin may have been too far for such a scenario.

    A different scenario could be that they are unloading. The tow path edge is clearly defined and there is nothing growing on the towpath area, suggesting the area is well and frequently used and could well be a wharf. Was Black Cock ever so used? Were there factories in the area which might have been taking delivery of heavy cargos by canal?

    There appears, in addition to the woman and child in the foreground, to be two men just behind the chimney of the butty. There could even be another person on the hold of the motor just to the right of the standing man. This is quite a lot of people for a pair of narrowboats so they could possibly be part of an unloading crew; boats were often unloaded manually by men with shovels – even in the 1960’s.

    Is this Black Cock Bridge? I’ve no idea, but it is a fascinating picture!

  9. David Evans says:

    HI Graham
    wow! Many thanks for this rich and comprehensive information. THIS is what makes this blog extra-special. I wonder if readers can add to this, please
    I think the photo is by the Black Cock bridge , Camden Street, Walsall Wood. Somewhere in the articles I think there is a map that shows the bank used as a wharf at one time.
    Graham, again, my sincere thanks for adding to this thread.
    Dolly Anslow told me her childhood memories of bargees sleeping at the Travellers Rest pub..there’s an article that mentions these memories “somewhere” in this blog..( lightening the load of coal etc..!)
    kind regards
    David

  10. Graham says:

    Thanks for the kind words David. I absolutely agree with you about how special this blog is. My connection with the area is very tenuous yet I read it every day.

    First a further correction to my dating of Willow Wren. They did fold in 1963 but they were reincarnated with a similar name and then survived into 1970.

    I’ve been looking at the picture again & have seen even more interesting things. There is at least one more figure in the stern of the butty & I think perhaps two. I could also be persuaded that there is someone standing in the background, look at the building with the white band on it. Look just to the left and below the band.

    What is that white band? It is very distinctive and could help in identifying where we are. I’m also wondering if that is a big stack of coal against that building – too small to have come from these boats though & I can’t see them loading from such a wharf when there are better loading facilities just up the cut at the colliery.

    I’ve been looking at some old OS maps, thanks to the National Library of Scotland. From what I can see there are more buildings in this picture than are shown on any of the maps of relevant date. Perhaps it’s Huddersfield!

    The Travellers Rest was a very important stopping place and had excellent stables. Tom Foxon mentions it as a place where the boat he was on would normally stop. Annoyingly, on the one trip he did they were delayed in loading and had to wait overnight at Anglesey so missed the stop – and our chance to get a good description of the pub!

  11. John lakin says:

    My grandparents lived in the first house in hall lane the mole family the house had subsided but the house was never level with the canal my grandad Alf mole worked for British waterways as did a lot of the family

  12. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    I wonder where the camerman was standing…..How easy was it to access the batters side of that stretch of the canal..by the Black Cock bridge……and, following Grahams observation…is it possible that we are actually looking at the wharf by the Travallers Rest, in Walsall Wood…a known stop off for narrowboats..with possibly a certain young boy Yates there..Barry Yates brother..Graham suggests the white line building may be important..Did the Travellers Rest have such a building..stables..at the rear?
    and a wharf deep,enough for two engine powered boats to moor side by side..I think we can see two funnels, perhaps.
    Access to the batters side there from the end of the brick wall at the bend of Beech Tree Road?
    kind regards
    David

    • I would have said it’s fairly evidently not there, due to the canal height above the surrounding land. The Wharf at the Black Cock was on the northwestern side, at the side of the sewage farm: I believe if this image were there, the bridge would be in shot.

      My feeling is either southwestern side of the bridge, or northwestern, next to what is now the sump, which is what Reg was talking about, I think. That would also fit with the curve in the canal.

      But not definitive, just my thoughts

      Cheers
      Bob

  13. John Blanchard says:

    My Father, John Blanchard (called Jack) was born in 1910 and lived at 31, Common Side Brownhills until about 1940. He worked at the Walsall Wood colliery from about 1925 to 1964 initially as a Banksman, then as a Stoker of the steam boilers and subsequently as a Winder on the No 2 shaft used for carrying workers. When I was a child, (before the houses were built on the common opposite their house) he told me that in his youth one could see Pelsall from their house and he went on to say “but you can’t now because the canal is in the way!”
    How does this contribute to the subsidence palaver?
    Regards,
    John Blanchard, Auckland, New Zealand

    • Heh. I like that – thanks – never heard it before.

      It’s a bit illusory, really – the key part here is the canal never moved. The Curly Wyrley has always had a water level give or take of 473ft AOD.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_levels_of_the_Birmingham_Canal_Navigations

      Where subsidence has occurred, the canal height has been maintained. Unless your Dad’s house sank radically (really radically, given the distance from the cut to Pelsall – triangulation) or Pelsall sank (possible with the weight of their own importance…) then probably apocryphal.

      Also, you’d tend to think sinking land would improve the view, I guess.

      But it’s very interesting, never heard that one before. Will give it some consideration later.

      Cheers
      Bob

      • John Blanchard says:

        Hi Bob,
        As you say, the key part is that the canal never moved.
        Because of that, as I see it, subsidence on either side of the canal (or both sides) could only cause the view of Pelsall from Commonside to become obscured by the canal. The sinking land could not improve the view.
        Regards,
        John Blanchard

  14. David Evans says:

    Good morning..evening John
    many thanks for your comments. Your father will have known Frank Beasley, another winder at the Coppy pit,,then. Do you know when the pit went from steam to electric winders, please..was it before or after the terrible tragedy there?
    There are so few photos of that coalmine or of the good men who worked there – I wish there were more – so it was by an amazing observation of Clive Roberts and the subsequent blog discussions and contributions that have helped to add to our history. This blog is exceptjonal.
    Our fathers were good friends in their latter years….
    many thanks and my best wishes to you
    David

    • John Blanchard says:

      Hi David,
      Apologies for time lapse since my last correspondence.
      Yes, I remember the name Frank Beasley though I do not remember ever meeting him.
      No, I do not know when the pit went from steam to electric winders but may be able to give a contact who might if you would e-mail me at clemjohn@kinect.co.nz
      In the context of mining subsidence and canal level it might be instructive to have a look at photographic evidence showing subsidence alongside the Trent and Mersey canal in Stoke on Trent.
      Go to :-
      http://www.thepotteries.org/did_you/007.htm
      This is not to say that the same happened near the Black Cock, merely to indicate what can occur when there is wholesale removal of rock strata over a large area.
      Regards,
      John

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s