The sands of time – another link to Old Brownhills is sadly lost

I was contacted earlier this month by old friend of the blog and frequent contributor Sheila Norris, with some rather sad news – her father, Leonard Jones sadly passed away last April. Len was the last of the Jones brothers who operated the Gentleshaw Sand company who had several quarries in the area including Clayhanger, and built the factory that became RKG pressings (itself now Bridgeside Close) as a plant workshop.

Gentleshaw Sand operated from sites both sides of Clayhanger Bridge, both by where Bridgeside Close is now, and on the village side. There was a brickworks where the new pool is now, just the other side of the road behind the big house. Taken from ‘Memories of Old Brownhills’ by Clarice Mayo & Geoff Harrington.

My sincere condolences and sympathies to Sheila. It has been a horrid year and I’m so sad to hear of your loss, as all of the readership will be.

I have covered The Gentleshaw Sand Company here on the blog several times, and also about the ‘Big House’ at Clayhanger where they lived for many years, thanks to the work of both Sheila and Brownhills historian Robert Webster.

With Len’s passing, another part of old Clayhanger as the original village and of wider Brownhills is lost and also, another link with past industry of the area. I thank Sheila for taking time out to help preserve the memory and the stories for future generations to learn about. It really is invaluable, particularly to the newer residents of the area, who may not realise the former industrial pst of their adopted home.

The site of this photo is now Bridgeside Close, but a large workshop/factory stood there for the best part of the 20th century – I always remember it as RKG Pressings. Image from ‘Memories of Old Brownhills’ by Clarice Mayo and Geof Harrington.

Shelia wrote:

Hi Bob,

In the past you have occasionally given Gentleshaw Sand Ltd. a mention on the Blog.

This is to let you know, somewhat belatedly, that Leonard Jones, last of the three Jones brothers who ran the business, sadly died of Corona Virus on 30th April this year, aged 96. He had outlived most of his employees but I understand that there are one or two left who might remember him.

More than 20 years ago he recorded his ‘memoirs’ and transcripts were made of these.

One of his greatest pleasures in recent years was to have these read back to him, and ‘The Story of Gentleshaw Sand’ was undoubtedly his favourite.

His working philosophy was never to ask anyone to do a job that he wasn’t prepared to do himself and this often meant that he was indistinguishable from the rest of the workforce.

I am attaching a couple of amusing anecdotes which illustrate this. They are written on the Company notepaper but if you highlight and right click the text alone you should be able to copy them into Word.

The attached photo is a favourite of mine as they all look such a happy bunch and it is how I remember my father from when I was a small child – I must be one of very few people to love the smell of diesel because of its happy associations! His brother Eddie is also in the picture. Perhaps relatives of these people may enjoy seeing this old photo from the 1950s.

Best wishes,
Sheila Norris

PS The photo shows a very young Roy Howes. Brian Stringer was able to put me in touch with him some years ago and we had some interesting telephone conversations about his time with Gentleshaw. He later wrote out his own memories of working for the company which Dad very much enjoyed hearing. Sadly, Roy died a few years ago now.

What a lovely image – and what fantastic plant! Image kindly shared by Sheila Norris.


I was digging a ditch at Hopwas because it had been raining heavily and lots of water was running down the lane and into the weighbridge. A Rep. drew up in his car and shouted

‘Oi mate!’

So I went over and he said

‘What’s the name of the bloke that runs this place?’

‘Jones ‘, I replied.

‘Yes, I know his name’s Jones but what’s his first name? If I can call him by his first name I’m in and can sell him something’

‘His name’s Len ‘ I said.

‘Right, where can I find this Len?’ said the Rep.

‘You’re talking to him’, I replied.

The Rep. just said ‘ Ah!’

I was working in the Ready-Mix plant because one of the men hadn’t turned up. We had a big order on at the time, so it was essential for the plant to be running. I was there by myself when a stranger came up to me and asked if he could buy a bag of Ready-Mix. I explained that he was supposed to buy it from local hardware shops but he said he lived very local and could I oblige him. So I agreed and said ‘Yes all right, it’s 5 shillings a bag.’

He pointed out a bag nearby that had burst and was waiting to be re-bagged and asked if he could have that one for half-price. I said ‘Yes, all right’ but then he said it would spill everywhere getting it home on his bike, so could he have a new bag to put it in! I said ‘Yes all right!’ and he gave me half a crown saying ‘Now you put that half crown in your own pocket – those Jones Brothers have got plenty!’ So I said, ‘Yes, all right then, thank you very much!’

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