Acc1268/3/3/1 - Marjorie's notification of a job interview as a Tobacconist's Assistant with the Walsall Co-op. It sparked a debate with some school children at the Archives. (Walsall Local History Centre)

Acc1268/3/3/1 – Marjorie’s notification of a job interview as a Tobacconist’s Assistant with the Walsall Co-op. It sparked a debate with some school children at the Archives. (Walsall Local History Centre)

Every so often I pen a short article (500 words or so) for the Black Country Bugle – a weekly local history newspaper for those that don’t know it – on something of interest in the Walsall Local History Centre archives. Through the Walsall Co-operative, this one shows a little of how we have changed from 1938 to today…

One accusation I constantly hear is that members that attend the local history groups I give talks to are more interested in nostalgia, as in chatting about the period and memories of their own lives, than in ‘proper history’. There is some element of truth in this; most that put-up with my ramblings as a speaker are more mature in years and they do engage more if I talk about the WWI tank once of Reedswood Park – and how their dad talked of it – than the Russian cannon from the Crimea that were removed from the Bridge two generations before. Should we be surprised in that? No, of course not. In general, people love to talk about what they remember or know about.

The item I have chosen to briefly talk about today will appear to some as about a run-of-the-mill piece as you can imagine, yet I love it; to me it shows it shouldn’t be a case of nostalgia against history, but that one person’s nostalgia is another person’s history.

Acc 1268/3/3/1 is from the Jamieson family collection. Bill, wife Nellie, and their daughter Marjorie all worked at the Walsall Co-operative – Bill starting at the Caldmore branch in 1906, before going to the dizzy heights of the Highgate branch in 1911. After the war he managed at the Aldridge and Sutton branches. Nellie worked at the Leamore branch from 1916.

In January 1938 Marjorie, having left school, tried to obtain a position as a Tobacconist’s Assistant at the Co-op – and the item is a notification of her first interview. I used it for a display at the Centre and none of our more mature visitors asked anything about it as, I think, it fitted comfortably within their own nostalgia. It was in fact to be a couple of school aged kids that became quite fascinated by it – by how alien it seemed to them – and so they dissected it word for word while they quizzed me.

I remember the first question – which seemed a little naïve at first – about women not working back ‘in the old days’. Of course they did, but I did have to point out that, as did many employed women, her mother had in fact left the Co-op after her parents married in 1922.

I also pointed out Marjorie was 14-years old at this point – the school leaving age introduced in 1918. This led to two comments – the first being somewhat predictable – on her age and the suitability of the job. I pointed out that smoking was seen by some to be healthy at the time and the link to lung cancer was only suggested in medical journals in 1939 and studied seriously in the 1950s. It is interesting that while illegal to sell to under-16s even then, she was seen as able to work in that environment.

The second point struck me from left-field – which was about a perceived lack of consideration by the Co-op for Marjorie. Their point, and an interesting one to show social change, was why the ‘shop’ didn’t interview her during the day – after all, they were asking a 14-year old to attend a meeting at 6.30pm, which in January, is night-time. I smiled when one said something along the lines of ‘not sure my mom would have let me go’.

Marjorie didn’t get the job. A week or so later she was interviewed for a Draper’s Assistant position, which she did get. As for me, it was a fantastic day at work thanks to those guys.

Anonymous grave markers,  now divorced from their graves, at the Burntwood Asylum graveyard. 2016.

Anonymous grave markers, now divorced from their graves, at the Burntwood Asylum graveyard. 2016.

The first of a 3 part article on depression in WWI, with special emphasis on the Cannock Chase camps. Part 1 investigates how well mental health was understood back in World War One and the story of a local soldier Silas Sargent of Bloxwich and Cheslyn Hay… https://wyrleyblog.wordpress.com/cannock/driven-to-dispair-the-dark-side-of-the-cannock-chase-camps-part-1/

A recruitment cartoon in the Advertiser, Sep 1914. (Cannock Library)

Mr Phillips and Don the Dog raising money for the Tommies, 1914. (Cannock Library)


This is the story of John Henry Degg from High Town, Hednesford. John Henry epitomises the opening day casualty of the Battle of the Somme – one of 19,240 dead – but I wanted to show that he was a person and not just a statistic. I have also used his family experience in order to give some local (Great Wyrley and Cheslyn to Cannock and Hednesford) and general military and political background not only to the battle, but the entire war… https://wyrleyblog.wordpress.com/cannock/the-cannock-area-in-world-war-one-the-deggs-of-hednesford/

Bath St Cemetery, early 1900s, now devoid of most of its headstones and funerary art. (Walsall Local History Centre)

Bath St Cemetery, early 1900s, now devoid of most of its headstones and funerary art. (Walsall Local History Centre)

This article started off as the story of Albert Edward King RE, a soldier from Chalford in Gloucestershire, and it still is, but the disappointment over the slightly unkempt nature of the graveyard he, and all the others, lay in mean’t that I wanted to extend the article to encompass through local examples, Great Wyrley, Cheslyn Hay, Walsall, Birmingham, as well as Chalford in Gloucestershire, the role of graveyards and funerary art (including headstones, statues and war memorials) in local communities. It is not meant to be exhaustive, but a brief look at the history and responsibilities that go with them… https://wyrleyblog.wordpress.com/articles-other/graveyards-headstones-and-now-lie-i-like-a-king/

King's grave in the rather unkempt churchyard at Chalford.

King’s grave in the rather unkempt churchyard at Chalford. 2016.

Station Street, Walsall, in the 1980s, where Bob Holmes worked around 1951-1952. Walsall Local History Centre.

Station Street, Walsall. Bob Holmes worked here around 1951-1952. Walsall Local History Centre.

Recently I discovered connections between Doctor Who, Cheslyn Hay and Walsall, so, as a bit of fun, I thought I would write an article on these connections, Bob Holmes and Tony Read, that I hoped would appeal to general local interest or TV nostalgia. Bob was a prolific writer for the series for near 20 years, becoming the series Script Editor as Tom Baker took over the role in 1974. Holmes spent a few years in Walsall as a journalist before moving on and eventually into television. Tony succeeded Holmes for a year as Script Editor in 1977. He was born in Cheslyn Hay in 1935 and would later move to Walsall, being educated at Queen Mary’s Grammar School in Walsall. https://wyrleyblog.wordpress.com/cheslyn-hay/anthony-read-and-bob-holmes-from-cheslyn-hay-to-gallifrey-via-walsall/

The Swan Inn, Walsall Road, Gt Wyrley. 2016.

The Swan Inn, Walsall Road, Gt Wyrley. 2016.


As I started to piece together a development theory for the Swan Inn in Wyrley it became obvious that somewhat larger elements of local and family history were involved: chief of these were the fact we were dealing an extended family – named Greensill – that operated two pubs, at least in 1834, which were both called The Swan. One Swan, that in Great Wyrley, survives; the other, a stone-throw into Leacroft, is now defunct. I knew that if I traced what I could of the Leacroft Swan this article would be significantly extended, I therefore decided to split the original article into two with this part dealing with the name and origins of the two pubs, as well as the lifespan of the Leacroft Swan… https://wyrleyblog.wordpress.com/wyrley-landywood/the-pubs-of-great-wyrley/the-pubs-of-great-wyrley-and-leacroft-one-swan-inn-and-one-swan-out/

As I have been a little under the weather, and so I am just getting back into writing a new article, I thought I would post this item as a bit of a bridge until that is ready. It shows an aspect of the work we do at the Local History Centre that is seldom seen: as it is a short video that Cath (our Local Studies Librarian) and I (Archivist) did as part of a project with the Common Ground Federation (which enable young people to deliver inspiring action that bridges communities through common ground and tackles issues that lie at the heart of society) on how local history (and especially the Walsall Zeppelin raids) can be used to connect the generations through shared experience and a shared sense of place.

Also, it is for those that live in Wyrley (and the wider area) that are interested in who it is that actually writes Wyrleyblog – yes, I actually appear in it – so if you see me around please say hi and let me know what you think of the stories or if you have any ideas for one!

Jack (Stuart Williams)

Jack (Stuart Williams)


This post was supposed to be a celebration, as Wyrleyblog is 2 years-old today. I was going to go on about hits and things, but I awoke to some sad news that really put pay to all that – it just didn’t seem so important anymore. Local historian and photographer Jack Haddock, whom I have known as a near resident of the Walsall Local History Centre for 10 years, has passed away. My colleagues at the Centre have posted a tribute to him on the Centre’s Blog and FB page and I would like to attach that to this post. An exhibition of his work is in the planning stages. We are all upset at the Centre and will remember him fondly… http://webwalsall.com/local-history-centre/?p=691

Walsall Congregational Church, bombed in 1916. (Walsall Local History Centre)

Walsall Congregational Church, bombed in 1916. (Walsall Local History Centre)


I intend to write-up a full account of the 1916 Zeppelin raid from a Walsall perspective, as I am a little tired of the myths that seem to linger about it. A few years back I was interviewed by the BBC for Radio WM and BBC Midlands Today (which went out nationally) regarding the Zeppelin raid in Walsall: the TV interview doesn’t seem to be on-line anymore, but the radio broadcast is… http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01sjx52

An oil painting by GW Woolley,1919. Looks like a Christmas card scene - i use this for my avatar on Wyrleyblog Facebook (Walsall Local History Centre)

An oil painting by GW Woolley,1919. Looks like a Christmas card scene – I use this for my avatar on Wyrleyblog Facebook (Walsall Local History Centre)

Follow the Watson story, from London, through Warwickshire to Pelsall, then onto Cannock, Chadsmoor and to the fields of France. Teaching, bizarre marriages, World War One, Religion and a gruesome death all play their part – but was it our Emily that I had found, could I prove it? … https://wyrleyblog.wordpress.com/articles-other/emilys-autograph-album-a-local-tale-pt-2/