Instrumental in our heritage

A lovely image from something I didn’t know existed at all – Brownhills Coperative Orchestra in, I think, the 1950s. Image very kindly supplied by John Bakewell, who is the dashing young lad back right holding the double bass.

Something very interesting popped up in the week that I think will engage the older readers particularly, and is a lovely one for the pre-Christmas period: A photo of the Brownhills Co-Operative Society Orchestra.

I had no idea it existed at all. I of course knew about the Brownhills Co-Operative Choral Society operating from the same place – which won many awards and was famous for decades; David Evans has written extensively about that fine history here many times over the years.

Yet I don’t recall any mention of an orchestra at all. John Bakewell wrote:

I used to play double bass with the Co-op orchestra that rehearsed each week in a room above the shop. Has anyone got any memories of this orchestra?

John added:

I’m second from the right at the back with the head of a double bass next to me. The society had their own instrument which meant that I could go straight to rehearsal on the bus from Cannock after finishing work in the council offices.

David Evans also observed:

Possibly a young Ray Cooper, back row second from right… Viola player.  Isabel Cooper, his wife, front row, by the clarinet player…

So can we help John identify more of the people in the image, or share recollections of this clearly very fine group of musicians?

The musical history of Brownhills is illustrious – truly – and also remarkably diverse, so it surprises me I’ve not noticed this orchestra before.

Can you help please? If you can, comment here on the blog, find me on social media or shoot me an email to BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Thanks, and particularly to John for shining a light on another bit of our otherwise forgotten cultural heritage.


The Co-op Hall, the upper floor used for a number of purposes, including the Labour Exchange. It stood where Farm Foods is today. A cracking 1980s image by Brownhills George, and posted on Panoramio.

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5 Responses to Instrumental in our heritage

  1. Fawlty says:

    Yes, I think that is Ray Cooper. He was a Police Constable at Walsall and his nickname was ‘The Fiddler’ He was also a very good swimmer and a life saving instructor His beat was the Delves and he was very well known in that area. He lived at Shire Oak and passed away a few years ago.

  2. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    I wonder if John also played in the Staffordshire County Youth Orchestra whose conductor was the County Music Adviser, Miss Maude Smith ?
    kind regards

  3. Tony Cooper says:

    Hello Bob

    I confirm that what David Evans said. It is Ray and Isobel Cooper in the photo. I am their son, Tony. My mother will remember some of the other members too. I will ask her when I see her.

    Kind regards

    Tony Cooper

  4. Derek Blakemore says:

    Hello David.
    You mentioned that you thought it might be me in the photo of the Brownhills Co-op Orchestra.
    I hadn’t seen the photo at the time and I wasn’t in that orchestra.
    Well I’ve now looked at the photo and it is me.
    The photo is of the Walsall Co-op Orchestra, we used to meet every Sunday afternoon in rooms above the shops in the arcade on the corner of Goodall St. and Bridge St. in Walsall.
    That’s me, extreme left on the back row. I would be about 14 years old at the time.
    Next but one to me on the back row is my violin teacher Mr Holford. He used to play in a dance band and lived on Shire Oak. The man in front of me was Edgar the pianist and the man with glasses just behind Mrs Cooper was Arthur Schevan, he played alto sax and clarinet. He also had a dance band and they played regularly at the primrose in Walsall Wood which was on the site where Barons Court now stands.
    I was a pupil at the Walsall Wood secondary school at the time but was not allowed to join the school orchestra for some reason when it was formed. I remember being a bit put out at the time but consoled myself with the fact that I played in a proper orchestra.
    Later as part of a captive audience of the school orchestra I was glad that I took no part in it !!
    Lovely memories of a carefree time in life.

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