Short Heath war memorial on the night of 12 November 2014, bedecked by poppy tributes to the fallen. This year, Thomas Jones will also me remembered for the first time.

Short Heath war memorial on the night of 12 November 2014, bedecked by poppy tributes to the fallen. This year, Thomas Jones will also me remembered for the first time.

Read the updated story of Sapper Thomas Jones and the quest to find him a place to call home. http://wyrleyblog.wordpress.com/articles-other/sapper-thomas-jones-a-place-to-call-home/

Cannock Advertiser, 21 Nov 1914. An account of Masters' death. (Cannock Library)

Cannock Advertiser, 21 Nov 1914. An account of Masters’ death.
(Cannock Library)

Masters is one of a few soldiers that is represented on both the Great Wyrley memorial gates and the Cheslyn Hay war memorial. Like many soldiers, Joseph Masters’ Great War record doesn’t survive and so we have to piece together his story from the few fragments that we have from other sources. Initially, I intended to write this article and publish it on the same day – the 7 November 2014 – as I only found that day (yesterday) that Masters was killed on this day, a century ago. Something made me hold fire – and I am pleased I did, as I managed to get to Cannock Library where I found an obituary in the newspaper. This showed that he was in fact killed on the 6 November and added a little more biographical detail… http://wyrleyblog.wordpress.com/wyrley-landywood/great-wyrleys-fallen-wwi/lcpl-joseph-masters-a-century-past/

The final page of Ralph's first letter, talking of when 'the British Bull-dog bites...' (Walsall Local History Centre)

The final page of Ralph’s first letter, talking of when ‘the British Bull-dog bites…’
(Walsall Local History Centre)

As an archivist, every now and then a collection comes along that peaks my curiosity perhaps a little more than others; this story is about one of those collections, or more accurately two of them. It started back in October 2013 when a letter arrived at the Walsall Local History Centre that was postmarked ‘America’. Inside were two letters sent in April 1915 from a solder, ‘Ralph’, to the proprietors of the Herbert’s Park Tavern in Factory St, Darlaston.’Ralph’ was clearly unidentifiable from the letters, but they do give some clues about his identity and clearly show what he thought of the War: his vivid account of the machine-gunning of stretcher-bearers chilled me. Then in October 2014 a couple of unconnected WWI postcards appeared, or so I thought. The name ‘Ralph’ and the handwriting seemed familiar. I had already listed the first collection, but could this wierd coincidence add anything further to our knowledge… http://wyrleyblog.wordpress.com/walsall/ralph-ralph-who-letters-from-the-western-front-to-darlaston-1915/

A Seaman's Suit (Walsall Local History Centre)

A Seaman’s Suit: A poem by Baron Powell to aid the Mayor of Walsall’s appeal for the Merchant Navy Comforts Service
(Walsall Local History Centre)

Here is a snippet of a story. A few days ago the Walsall Local History Centre was approached by the Mayor’s Office in relation to an item gifted to the Mayor from a citizen of the town. The Mayor was curious to find out a little more about, so I had a look. Having done so, I thought it would make an interesting enough little bonus article for the blog and for the Walsall Local History Centre’s Facebook page. http://wyrleyblog.wordpress.com/walsall/walsall-1943-the-mayor-a-baron-and-the-merchant-navy/

Whitehall Infant Department, 1926 photographed by W Bullock. (Walsall Local History Centre)

Whitehall Infant Department, 1926
photographed by W Bullock.
(Walsall Local History Centre)

This article follows on from that looking at the background and opening of the school in 1899. In this article I want to take a look the early years of the school, specifically the period between 1899 and 1923. This was the tenure of the first headmistress, Sarah Jane Woodward (nee Parker). The period covers the opening of the main school, the transfer from School Boards to the Local Education Authority in 1902, the building and opening of the new Infant Department in 1903 and of course, the harrowing time of the First World War. What will become clear is that Sarah faced a multitude of day-to-day problems regarding staffing, the children, the building, sickness and overcrowding. These problems and experiences will be seen through the eyes of Sarah herself, who detailed the daily life in the school log book. It will become evident in just how schools and education has changed. http://wyrleyblog.wordpress.com/walsall/whitehall-infant-school-1890s-1923/whitehall-infant-school-1899-1923-part-2-the-sarah-jane-parker-story/

Obverse sides of Billy Meredith's medal set. 2014.

Obverse sides of Billy Meredith’s medal set. 2014.

This article is a little different for me as its inspiration was not taken from a name on a memorial, but a cache of medals from a surviving soldier of the First World War. Dave, a regular at the Harrison’s club in Great Wyrley, mentioned that he had his grandfather’s medals and asked if I would like to see them. I did and he duly obliged. He presented me with a set of four medals that belonged to a William Henry Meredith, but even a basic inspection showed immediately that there was something that wasn’t quite right. Dave knew nothing of the medals and was at a loss when I pointed-out the inconsistencies, so, with his permission I set-off to unravel the Meredith story and the medal mystery… http://wyrleyblog.wordpress.com/walsall/billy-fred-and-the-importance-of-being-ernest-william-merediths-wwi-medals/

Whitehall School, upon opening in August 1899. Note the fields opposite, from where the drawing was made as they were once home to Walsall FC (Walsall Local History Centre)

Whitehall School, upon opening in August 1899. Note the fields opposite, from where the drawing was made as they were once home to Walsall FC
(Walsall Local History Centre)

In this two-part article I want to take a look at the Whitehall Infant School, which is sandwiched between the West Bromwich Rd and Weston Street in south Walsall. I am not going to cover the whole history, just around the first 25 years. This first part will cover the period up to the opening of the school in August 1899; it will look at the historic background, the reason why the site was chosen, the design of the school and the opening ceremony. The second part looks at the period from 1899 to 1923, which is the tenure of the first headmistress, Sarah Jane Woodward (nee Parker). Set against the context of her life, this covers the school’s experiences, including the harrowing time of the First World War, through her eyes – as she detailed them in the school log book. It will become evident in just how much the school, education and society have changed. http://wyrleyblog.wordpress.com/walsall/whitehall-infant-school-part-1-founding-1899/

Domesday Book (National Archives)

Domesday Book
(National Archives)

Domesday has reached almost biblical status in the way that local historians use it to prove their village existed in the late 11th century. As most people tend to look at Domesday simply for their entry, they don’t tend to question the document as a whole: the truth is that it is filled with errors, omissions and inconsistencies so the whole thing can be somewhat bewildering at best. Following on from the Wyrley article, this article will give my thoughts on the Bloxwich entry and the missing Walsall one. http://wyrleyblog.wordpress.com/walsall/domesday-book-the-walsall-and-bloxwich-question/

The Norton and Wyrley entry under Lichfield (Open Domesday)

The Norton and Wyrley entry under Lichfield
(Open Domesday)

With the possible exception of Magna Carta, few historical documents have embedded themselves in the national psyche in quite the way that Domesday Book has. Domesday has reached almost biblical status in the way that local historians use it to prove their village existed in the late 11th century. As most people tend to look at Domesday simply for their entry, they don’t tend to question the document as a whole: the truth is that it is filled with errors, omissions and inconsistencies so the whole thing can be somewhat bewildering at best. This article will give my thoughts on the Wyrley entry. http://wyrleyblog.wordpress.com/wyrley-landywood/domesday-book-the-wyrley-question/

Roll of Honour for Essington and Hilton, containing the names of the Walkeden brothers 2014.

Roll of Honour for Essington and Hilton, containing the names of the Walkeden brothers
2014.

Newtown is in Essington. The heart of this ‘newtown’ sprang-up opposite the Cannock Lodge Colliery but a second area of settlement also began to appear on Long Lane. This too was outside of a colliery, in this case the Norton Cannock Colliery. Both the Cannock Lodge and the Norton Cannock closed in 1910 and you would have thought would have killed off the small settlement on Long Lane, but it didn’t. Small as this community was, it still managed to send some of its sons to war and four of them didn’t come back. Newtown would be no ‘thankful village’. http://wyrleyblog.wordpress.com/other-places/long-lane-to-the-long-long-trail-the-walkeden-boys-of-newtown-essington/