It’s been a while since I featured a local history article by the young David Evans who’s still beavering away diligently in the background, and today we return to his home ground of Walsall Wood, where the good gentleman has been working on the history of one of the legends of the village: Batkins, latterly the home of Roadrunner.
Roadrunner, a name associated with Walsall Wood and car spares for as long as I can remember finally shut it’s doors in 2020, and the former shop is now being transformed. David has been investigating it’s older history, as a butchers.
I thank David for yet another lovely article to add to the expanding cannon of local history here on the blog.
It’s nice to get time to do history again, and I also have great history articles coming real soon from Isaac Marklew Brown, and later today if possible, railway historian Ian Pell – so stay tuned!
With the ongoing lockdown and stay at home Christmas upcoming, hopefully I can provide some light distraction here on the blog for you all.
Best wishes folks – and stay safe!
I was intrigued to see that one of Walsall Wood’s former butchers shops is having some building work done to it.
This building, in its latter years, will be known to many as Roadrunner, a motor spares shop of repute, that stands in Lichfield Road Walsall Wood. But to local people of some advancing years it is known affectionately as Batkins the butchers.
There were several butchers shops in the Wood. Near to the canal in the High Street were two butchers, Cherry’s and Felton’s, with an abbatoir in the yard.
At Streets Corner, now a busy road junction, was Bates’ butcher’s shop. Along Salters Road was Jones’ butchers shop, a wooden hut building.
But, perhaps the oldest and possibly the longest serving of the butchers’ was Batkins
Jan Farrow’s fine local history book, Brownhills and Walsall Wood, published in 1992 shows this image with Batkin’s and the Reliant three wheel delivery van outside the shop
So, let’s take a look back and see what the local newspapers tell us about the shop and the people there.
From the Walsall Advertiser 24 October 1896 we see that Mr Batkin bought a shop and residence. We can see in the first image that the building was a shop and a residence:
This is taken from the Walsall Observer, 6 May, 1916, page 1 and gives some revealing details. The business was established in 1855… Making the building perhaps one of the earliest along this part of Lichfield Road. Also there is reference to closing the grocery department. Consequence of War? Perhaps the two assistants being called up?
What do we learn of the owner, Mr Alfred Batkin?
From the Walsall Observer,2 April 1910, page 11. Mr Batkin was an active member of St. John’s Church. Where were the three Mission Churches? Walsall Wood, perhaps Clayhanger, but where was the third one?
Walsall Observer 25 February 1933 gives some interesting details of his association with the District Nursing Association. In later years we know that Dr Roberts, our local GP, was active in setting up a Nursing Home during the war years.
We have seen, in Brownhills Bob’s wonderful blog, Audrey Proiffitt’s childhood memories and one adventure which involved Batkins butchers, and the field behind the shop was a training ground for Cossack Riders.
What became of the shop and especially the residence? This from the Walsall Observer 27th January 1940.
And,to end with, a ‘brush with officialdom’ made the local press, from Walsall Observer of 2nd April 1910, page 11
On the 1911 census Alfred Batkin aged 40 was classed as a grocer and butcher. Living with Alfred and his wife was his nephew, Kenneth Beak, aged 18, assistant. Sometime before 1939 Kenneth Beak, became the ‘grocer and butcher’. He was the proprietor until he retired in the 1960s with his son Ronnie, there was also a daughter, Margaret, keeping the trading name of ‘Batkin’. My mother worked for them, for a short while.
In the early 1960s was this shop a builders merchants by the name of Laddias ? they displayed tiled fireplaces inside etc. They also had a yard near to the entrance of oak park where they sold sand and slabs etc. , I used to pass it on my way to the church school.
Could the third mission church have been the one at the corner of Field Lane and Church Way in High Heath, still marked in the 2005 edition of the A to Z though it was long gone? And was the Walsall Wood Mission Church the tin tabernacle in Clayhanger Road?
At 63yrs of age, I used to attend St John’s school and walked past the said building every school day. It was a painters and decorators then, if my memory serves me well, it was called Laddiers and had fancy sign writing on a long wooden board.
The three mission churches referred to were at Clayhanger, High Heath and Shelfield. My grandfather was the choir master at St John’s church in Walsall Wood when I was a child. He would go to these three mission churches sometimes, to help their choirs prepare for special occasions. I believe that before he became the permanent choirmaster at St Johns, he was at Clayhanger Mission Church for a long time.