A sunny morning in Pier Street

Continuing with the donations from the wonderfully generous Sir Gerald of Reece, and following some discussion on Facebook over the weekend, here’s a couple of fascinating images from a little-mentioned part of Brownhills: Pike Helve.

What a lovely picture of a lost time – 29 to 37 Pier Street. Image kindly supplied by Gerald Reece via the young David Evans.

Pike Helve was a small community of houses that stood at the end of Pier Street by the canal, just adjacent to the ‘Iron’ pedestrian bridge that was replaced in 2007.

In the days these photos were taken, Silver Street and Pier Street were effectively dead ends to all but pedestrians, and Pike Helve was little more that a hamlet on the footpath from Brownhills High Street to Clayhanger.

Pike Helve was not known for being a particularly well-off neighbourhood, but it did have a pub: The Fortune of War, or Pier Inn.

The rear of the terrace above: Note that although down at heel, the yards are beautifully tidy. Image kindly supplied by Gerald Reece via the young David Evans.

I suspect these images depict Pike Helve not long before it was demolished, and capture a lost little community – a postman, caught in time chats to two ladies on a sunny morning, their dog wandering towards the photographer. The houses are shabby, but tidy and four-square.

Thanks as ever to Gerald Reece for his lovely donations and to David Evans for his tireless effort in scanning this material – in the face, at the moment,. of a bout of the flu. Get well soon old chap!

39-41 Pier Street, and the Pier Inn. Image kindly supplied by Gerald Reece via the young David Evans.

If you have anything to add, please do: You can comment here or mail me on BrownhillsBob at Googlemal dot com, or even shout me on the usual social media channels.

I include below an earlier article by Elizabeth Hampton, who grew up in Pike Helve and shared her wonderful, warm memories:

The community at the canal end of Pier Street, shown top left – known as Pike Helve (and oddly marked of a few maps as ‘Pike Hill’) was poor, but well known. Image from Britain from Above/English Heritage.

I’ve had a lovely contribution in from reader Elizabeth Hampton, who found Reg ‘Aereg’ Fullelove’s poem about Brownhills High Street in the Rhyme and Season article here last week – this is a wonderful memoir which I’m sure readers will love.

I’ve actually split it into too, as there’s so much lovely material that it’s worth breaking into separate posts. In this one, Elizabeth remember Brownhills in her post-war childhood, and mentions some very familiar names.

Thanks so much to Elizabeth for a wonderful contribution – please do join in; comment here of mail me: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Thanks!

Elizabeth Wrote:

I was born in 1938 in South Yardley but moved to Broownhills before I was one and my two brothers born 1940 and 1942 in Brownhills. We also had two elder brothers 10 and 12 years older than me. We lived in the infamous Pier Street just of the High Street, My mother and father doing their very best in the terrible rented terrace house for us to keep us clean, well fed and loved. Against all the problems of no water in the house, only a tap in the yard for all living in the terrace and outside toilets.

My brothers and I remember other shops . At the top of Pier street turn right there on the corner was Kingstons Shoe Shop. (He was also our Landlord) They was also Holmes the Green Grocers (in which the sisters worked) Starbucks the Butchers (son Tommy went to school at the same time as our Tom) I think Caters Electrical shop was there before they moved over the road to the bigger shop. There was also another shoe shop called Kingston One time there was a dentist, (which I had the pleasure of going to) and of course the Co-op, there used to be Smiths (who also sold homemade ice-cream) and I don’t know if it was taken over by the Co-op Butcher shop or whether it was side by side. Selwyn Smith was further down the High Street and I used to go to Junior school at the same time as Joyce Smith his daughter. (As well as Dena Webster, Betty Hampton (funny enough which is now my name).

Selwyn Smith and his competitor Mr. Pelari kept generations of kids happy with their local ice cream. Image from ‘Memories of Old Brownhills’ by Clarice Mayo and Geoff Harrington.

Across the road just near to Brickiln Street was my favourite Sweet Shop, run by I think Mrs. Shrigley and her husband. We would go in with our sweet coupon and she would make it stretch as best she could. An ounce of this from one jar and ounce of that from another. We had H. Brookes clothes shop which used to belong to the old Kent sisters. My Mom used to buy our clothes from there. Then there was Craddocks. I remember Joes, and of course Mrs. Daft’s fish and chip shop.

I cannot remember now if it was Mrs. Daft who fell into the Canal and my brother Matt got her out. He received a certificate from the Royal Humane Society for doing this. I know he had just had his wages and there were still in his pocket when he jumped in and my Mom hung his pound notes on the line to dry.

I think most of us of a certain age remember Joe’s in Brownhills High Street – not as the book says, a cafe, but a sweet shop and tobacconist. They had a fantastic range of ice cream in exotic flavours, and they sold fireworks around bonfire night. Lote’s, of course, was the rather dark jewellery shop, and just out of shot, next door, was I believe the Ash & Nephew off-license. From ‘Around Pelsall & Brownhills’ by David F. Vodden.

Going back to Pier Street, if you turned left there was the
Weslyan Chapel
and when I left School the Education Offices,( where I got my first job)
Mount Zion Chapel.
Shops Luckmans,
Tomlinsons Paper Shop, where my Dad would go every Saturday to pay for his papers and have a chat and pay on his card for our Christmas presents – books , toys etc.
Ann Seedhouse the Chemists.
The Corn and Seed Shop

The Regent Cinema where I spent many a happy Tuesday and Friday night downstairs could not afford to go upstairs. We use to have two films a week. Mr. Turner was always around and if we left anything like a hat or gloves he would nine times out ten have it there for you.

The audience at one of the last Saturday Matinee shows at the Regent Cinema, Brownhills, in 1962. Taken from 'Around Pelsall & Brownhills' by David F. Vodden.
The audience at one of the last Saturday Matinee shows at the Regent Cinema, Brownhills, in 1962. Taken from ‘Around Pelsall & Brownhills in old photographs’ by David F. Vodden.

I remember going to see Victor Mature in Samson and Delilah and the film broke down and he gave us all our money back or we could go another night.

There was also another Fish and Chip Shop near to the Cinema going towards the Station and across the road by Church Road was the Post Office. [Saults? – Bob]

I also remember Princeps and Bradburys with their large windows.

We also had the fair every year on the ground by Silver Street.

I see in the poem he mentions hairdresser Tommy the Black, does he mean the coloured Barber who had his shop further on than the Cinema and was named Mr. Brown. I think his wife was also a ladies hair dresser. My father used to go there for his hair cut for years and when my Dad retired due to ill health this Barber would not take another penny for cutting my Dads hair.

[Bob – I believe Tommy Brown was Tommy the Back as he was then known, he used to work from a shed behind his wife’s shop about where Wilkinson is today. If I’m wrong, please do correct me – Bob]

In the 60s, Brownhills was home to several Emporia, including Prrinceps and Bradbury’s. Image form ‘Memories of Brownhills Past’ by Clarice Mayo and Geoff Harrington.

My two brothers and I when we meet will often go over old times (maybe to the boredom of our families) and wonder whatever happened to some people. For instance there used to be a family called Cresswell who lived in Pier Street, who really were much poorer than us, a lovely family and very intelligent, we can recall Freddie and Winnie. I remember their father dying and their poor Mother being left to brig them up.

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20 Responses to A sunny morning in Pier Street

  1. Isobel Dams says:

    Were there cottages on both the right and the left side of Pier Street down by the canal? I can remember playing with children from a cottage on the right hand side (looking away from High Street) and going into their house. This would have been in the late 1950s, early 60s.

  2. hi elizabeth you have brought back more memories yes i remember pyke elve when itwas fully ocupied and in my the row of houses in thedays of the old chasetown days of the penny electric meter the collecter would start at the first house and then any children would follow the collector along to watch as the meters were emptied i also can still remember the names of some of tenants poor but proud part brownhills history god bless them

  3. Reg Fullelove says:

    if my memory serves me wright the old lot cresswell played the piano either at the olld station hotel imay be wrong btu so many of the olld characters still linger in my i mind but i have motto i only look for flowers not weeds in the garden of life its mutch happier and in their own form we all have them god bless

  4. raymond share says:

    i remember arthure luck who lived in pier st also lim robinson in the cottage opposite the pub
    my uncle was also arereg.s uncle sib he had a daughter marion sadly nolonger with us

  5. Isobel Dams says:

    At the top end of Pier Street lived Doll Davies and the Seedhouse family. Melvyn and Clive Seedhouse were playmates of me and my sister



  7. Sheila Lewis says:

    My Husband Brian Lewis lived at number 29 Pier Street, the postman in the photo is his Dad Bill Lewis.

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  9. Rachel gosling says:

    I’m interested in the Mrs Daft part as apparently I had a great, great aunt that lived in those cottages, who got very drunk in the pub there and fell in the canal. I’m wondering if this was her? I’ll scour the records to see if that was her married name.

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  11. Emma Smith says:

    My Grandmother told me that her Aunt and Uncle Harry and Polly Smith ran The Pier prior to 1930. Harry Smith was unfortunately killed in the Grove Pitt Disaster along with his Brother-in-Law and Polly’s Brother and that her Grandmother Ruth Smith went to help run it sort while after his death. She remembers visiting her cousins at the pub.

  12. Glynn Hughes says:

    Great Photos I remember Joe’s, J.C.Lote and I can just remember the old gas works. 👍👍

  13. John Keay says:

    does anyone remember bunty burrows &brother reg in pier st.

  14. Katie Adams says:

    My Nan and her family lived in the cottages in Silver street when she was young. I believe that her dad had a small holding nearby. Also, I believe her grandfather lived nearby too.

    Her Dad was called John Barnard and her Grandfather was Valentine Scarratt.

    My Nan speaks fondly about going dancing at ‘The Pier’ where her brother also used to play the piano.

  15. Vikki Swain says:

    Love to see these photos of Pier Street and to read people’s stories .My grandfather and his family lived there ( Barnards )

  16. Debbie Taylor says:

    My mom Dorothy (Dot)was one of the Cresswell children sadly out of 10 of them there qre only 2 living Maureen and Eva

  17. Valerie Dallison says:

    I read this item with interest as I found it when googling pier street. I am trying to research a Sarah Cowley, whose married name was Rogers and she aslo went by then name Sadie. In 1939 she lived at 28 Pier street, her husband was Frank. Does anyone know anything about the family?

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