The title to this story is a little bit different and I am sure the mind is boggling as to just how a man, a war, a harp and a monkey could all fit together. Well, the first link is easy: the search for the man, Frederick George Wray, started with a bit of a mystery that arose from the war memorial in Hednesford. What happened then was that the mystery was partly solved through a moment of serendipity, however, the answer that moment of serendipity provided only served to take the story on – and to try to answer a question posed by a harp and a monkey! Confused? I will explain… https://wyrleyblog.wordpress.com/cannock/a-man-a-war-a-harp-and-a-monkey-the-frederick-wray-story/
I started to look into the history of the White Lion pub in Walsall, which is located on the corner of Sandwell Street and Little London, in what is generally called the Little London area of Walsall. It quickly became apparent that it was old – and by that I mean it predated the both the current 1890s rebuild and the 1830 Beerhouse Act – so I knew that its early origins would be difficult, if not impossible to track. So, this part will indirectly look at the pub by concentrating on the place name and early development of the area known as Little London in Walsall, with some reference to the Little London in Willenhall; while the second part will look at the pub itself…https://wyrleyblog.wordpress.com/walsall/little-london-and-the-white-lion-walsall/
We are again near that time of year of the year, especially so during the centenary of the conflict, that the people of the Black Country come together to remember the ‘Great Zeppelin Raid’ of 31 January/1 February 1916. This article, taken from the holdings of Walsall Archives, focusses mainly on the blackout policy of Walsall Council both before and after the raid.
It was the first time that Zeppelins raided in-land and we are often led to believe, and I can only speak of Walsall here, that it caught an area that arrogantly thought itself safe from aerial attack: Walsall famously having its street lights full-on and its tramcars running. This is actually not the case: Walsall’s Chief Constable had ordered street, shop and theatre lighting reduced by half back in February 1915 and, as a letter from Walsall Council to Nottingham Council dating from October 1916 shows, a plan existed for ‘complete extinguishment’ upon a warning transmitted from ‘a Midland Centre’. This Centre was told around an hour and a half before the first bombs dropped on Walsall that night – when the Zeppelins were around ’40 miles away’ – however, while Birmingham was informed and put its ‘blackout’ plan into operation, ‘Walsall and other towns’ were not and suffered accordingly.
The Zeppelins had exposed a weakness in communications and by 12 February a new warning system was devised that replaced the responsibility of the police with that of Telephone District Managers. They had also exposed the limitations of the Council’s policy of turning the lights off and trusting to luck; so, over the next days, weeks and months Walsall put into operation a system of public sirens, initiated a total black-out, petitioned for Anti-Aircraft guns, improved their ambulance facilities, looked at air raid shelters and carried out a test mobilisation of up to 300 people. Elsewhere, the local Co-op started selling ‘Veneta Zeppelin blinds’ (in any colour as long as it was dark green) and the first newspaper after the raid saw agents selling Zeppelin Insurance.
The total blackout was a typical British knee-jerk reaction, being poorly thought out in my opinion. It makes me think on Laurence Olivier’s narration to ‘A World at War’ – on how the blackout in the opening months of World War Two was originally seen as a bit of a joke until the accidents increased and the joke didn’t seem quite so funny anymore.
It took a full year and the death of Robert Saunders to get some change to the policy in Walsall. Saunders, a 60-year old locksmith from Fletchers Lane in Willenhall, was crossing Upper Bridge Street at around 9.30 pm on Saturday 10 February 1917 when he was struck by a Birmingham & Midland Motor Omnibus Company bus. The bus, the 8.43 pm Birmingham – Walsall service driven by Smethwick man Walter Day, had been travelling slowly and, according to regulations, was only burning two side lamps that were obscured. Day states that he did not see him until it was too late, as there were no street lights and his bus was blacked out. Saunders, probably the last victim attributable to the Great Zeppelin Raid in Walsall, died a few hours later.
It was clearly not the first accident to have occurred and as consequence the Coroner wrote on behalf of the jury to the Council on the issue of street lighting. Finally, the Chief Constable arranged, at a cost of £3 per light, for 15 electric lamps to be erected at compulsory stops on the main roads of the Borough. All of these lights could be switched off automatically just in case the Zeppelins returned – which of course they never did!
For other stories on the Walsall Borough take a look at my Wyrleyblog: https://wyrleyblog.wordpress.com/ (also on Facebook and Twitter) and the Walsall Local History Centre’s blog: http://web.walsall.gov.uk/local-history-centre/?page_id=2 (also on Facebook and Twitter)
Rushton seems the ideal patriot: he was a volunteer that joined-up in 1914, getting himself passed as fit to serve despite there being evidence that suggests he was not. While training, his family went through a trauma which left him, understandably, petitioning the officer-in-charge to be able to go home. That permission was refused… https://wyrleyblog.wordpress.com/cannock/ernest-rushton-of-hednesford-crying-wolf/
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/
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/
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/