Reading mysteries

Footherley is a small hamlet south of Shenstone, about 4 miles from Brownhills. Imagery from current Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 mapping.

One for the weekend I’ve been meaning to raise here for a while – there’s a historical mystery just down the road from here we’ve never properly explored, and I’d be interested to see what we can find out about it.

Marked on the 1:2,500 maps from the turn of the last century (in the instance shown, 1912) there is a building marked in Footherley, near Shenstone, as ‘Reading Room’.

On most large scale maps of the late Victorian and pre-WW1 period, a Reading Room – whatever that is – is marked in Footherley, near Shenstone. Click for a larger version.

Lazily, I’d always assumed the ‘reading room’ was a social club of some sort and later became Footherley Working Men’s Club, which still exists, but actually having studied the map, they’re in two different places.

This has really piqued my interest.

The reading Room is actually marked on the map as being attached, or adjacent to the barns at Home Farm, and not near the site of today’s Working Men’s Club at all.

In this National Library of Scotland Archive mapping from 1912, overlaid on Google Earth imagery, it’s evident the Reading Room was not where I though it was. Click for larger image.

I’d love to know what we can find out about this: Was it an early library? Gentleman’s club? Why in Footherley, and not the larger, nearby Shenstone? Is it related to the club, or are they different?

I’ve been idly wondering about this for years and I’d love to know what readers think – Please do comment here, grab me on social medial or mail me: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Thanks.

The Reading Room was either this building, or a lost one attached to it. Imagery from Google Streetview.

Footherley Working Men’s Club is apparently still functional, but a little dilapidated and is a good way south of Home Farm. Imagery from Google Streetview.

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13 Responses to Reading mysteries

  1. Keith Bradbury says:

    There was a reading room in Shenstone too I recollect from my local history research while teaching there. That concluded ( my teaching that is ) 27 years ago and so my fading aging memory of 77 is struggling but I think they were fairly common, especially in villages, as a place for public reading of newspapers. They sort of preceded public libraries.

  2. David Evans says:

    did Brownhills have a reading room..?

  3. Keith Bradbury says:

    🤷🏻‍♂️

  4. Pedro says:

    There may be a clue in an advert for Brewood, in 1857, where a new room is to be opened.

    The Brewood News and reading room, under the patronage of the Chillington and Somerford families.

    • Keith Bradbury says:

      Reckon so Pedro!
      Further pondering and recollections are that they may have initially appeared in order for the local populace to read about current/ ongoing wars as the Empiire was conquered.

  5. David Evans says:

    did the Pelsall Iron works have some sort or reading room….Boaz Bloor name comes to mind..?

  6. Khan Rose says:

    Early version of public libraries, where locals could go and read newspapers. Often beneficiaries of local rich families

  7. Pedro says:

    There was a reading room, Shenstone 1873…A series of concert readings….in 1857 a Ball held in the Village Reading Room, Shenstone but I don’t think it would be the one in question.

  8. aerreg says:

    i recall this building from the earlly days at the MEB itwasnt in avery good state of repair then corect me if ime wrong but wasnt there a convent further down the road on the left and somthing is in my mind relating to walsall council ther e were very few buildings in footherly in those days i think there were two houses next to the corougated hut

  9. David Evans says:

    BrownhillsUDC minutes. Health Committee, 3 April 1930 resolved that the council take steps to provide for reading room facilities in Brownhills, Norton Canes and Walsall Wood. Cllrs Baker and Emery voted against the motion

  10. aerreg says:

    i
    can recall the one in shenstone something has gone through my mind could these have been the begining of the WI VILLAGE HALLS TODAY

  11. aerreg says:

    just a bit more gobbly goo as you entered the old memo there was a room to the left was a large room known as the library where meetings where held also a public pay phone there was also a small office from where the saturday dance where sold from a numbered roll of tickets bearing a stamp for performing rights doors were locked at 10 oclock no alcohock was sold on the premeses onlly tea and cakes for refreshments my dad david was in charge of tickets sold the early days of senior citizens started in that room was this the brownills readingroom //

  12. davidoakley says:

    Pleck had a Reading Room. later taken over by a Building Society, but I cannot recall any other Walsall district having this facility.

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