Some top brass, a tuba groover and an unsung hero

A remarkable local image of a band, from the turn of the last century. Image on display in Brownhills Library, via David Evans.

There has never been enough attention paid anywhere that I’m aware of to the Victorian father of modern Brownhills, William Robertssometime railway plate layer, ganger, brewer, publican, entrepreneur, civic stalwart, JP and philanthropist, William  was a very rare man in his time, and appears to have been generous, considerate, imbued with a real sense of social justice, and was undoubtedly a sharp-dealing rogue too.

I’ve covered the larger than life story of this remarkable man a fair few times – who to my knowledge and great shame, lies unrecognised by the town of Brownhills as a civic entity – including his obituary, will, other historian’s work on him and stories of his empire.

Today, out of the blue, David Evans sent me an image connected with Old Bill that I’ve never seen before to my knowledge. It shows a brass band in uniform, purportedly behind the Station Hotel, outside the Roberts Brewery in Brownhills which was  the seat of the Roberts great empire. The photo is of course, featured above.

The image contains the ‘ghostly image’ perhaps, of William himself – or perhaps someone else – who moved as the shot was taken.

David wrote:

This amazing photo caught my attention in Brownhills library this morning. The legend says that it shows a local band. The legend mentions that  there is a ghostly image with it of William Roberts, publican and important local man.
I wonder if readers can help to identify which band this is, and who the tuba player, wearing a bowler hat is. I wonder where the photo was taken?
Did William Roberts really take part in his boxing bouts in a ring behind his Station Hotel, or is this urban myth?
Thanks to the librarian for allowing me to take the photo and to send it for further research
kind regards

A man and his fixed wheel steed, not dissimilar to many fixie hipsters one might see in big cities today. Image originally supplied by the John Anslow.

Now we have a suspicion the man with the tuba may be the monstink featured here. They do seem quite alike, and Mr. ‘Monstink’ Bradbury had previous brass band form, as you can read in the related article here. That’s also a fine hipster beard the hirsute young lads today would be proud of…

Please, if you can help identify the band, exact location or anything else connected with this image or the Roberts history, please do get in touch – you can comment here or mail me: BrownhillsBob at googlemmil dot com. Thanks.

My gratitude as ever to David for his sharp eye and constant hard work in pursuit of our history.

I am terribly sad that William has not even a plaque in his honour in Brownhills, and before I shuffle off the mortal coil or finally lose my marbles, I’d really like one of the successes of this blog to be achieving some kind of memorial or civic recognition no matter how small, to the original Mr. Brownhills.


William Roberts himself. Image from ‘Brownhills: A walk into history’ by Gerald Reece.


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3 Responses to Some top brass, a tuba groover and an unsung hero

  1. Pedro says:

    I am not a Brownhillian but I hope Bob is successful in obtaining recognition for William Roberts. The big man seems to be one of the few “entrepreneurs” who actually lived within the community, unlike the Harrisons who moved out into the sticks.

    The Harrisons soon moved from the shaky Norton Hall to places like Rugeley, Orgreave, Aldershawe and Wychnor. They are remembered even by modern mining “historians” as providers of employment. But for me their “philanthropy” was crumbs from the rich man’s table.

    The big man may well have been a likeable rogue, and he had a lot less money than the Harrison family, but the donation of the fire engine, the meals for the over 80s and much else gives the sense that he was truly a man of the community

  2. David Evans says:

    well said, Pedro..could not agree more. We have streets named after local councillors from the Wild West days of BUDC after 1940s, and a close in Walsall wood named after the local doctor Roberts, for nothing for Big Bill.
    ..not even the former Police Station.
    good to hear from you
    kind regards

  3. Stephen J Pratt says:

    I visited St James church Brownhills in the hope of finding his gravestone. Apparently it was a huge affair, but sadly I couldn’t find it. Anyone know what’s happened to it, since I’m writing an article on him for publication

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