Aerial photo of the Butts pre-1935. The western half of Warwick St (now demolished for the School) leads from the bottom right to Teddesley St. (Walsall Local History Centre)

Aerial photo of the Butts pre-1935. The western half of Warwick St (now demolished for the School) leads from the bottom right to Teddesley St.
(Walsall Local History Centre)

Regular readers of Wyrleyblog will know that every few months or so I dip into the Walsall Coroner’s records to recount an old tale, especially if it has a relevance in some way to today. The story that I have picked for this article centres on the Butts area of Walsall; it tells the story of one George Loake, who inexplicably took his pocket-knife to his estranged wife’s throat and left her for dead on the August Bank Holiday of 1911. Loake offered no resistance on his arrest and ultimately no explanation when questioned. Make no bones about it, at the heart of this story lies a shocking death and all the brutality of the subsequent execution; but laying the crime aside for the moment, the questions remain as to what really was George Loake’s state of mind at the time of the killing, did a lack of money to pay for ‘skilled witnesses’ have a baring and, had it still been a capital offence, would he have hanged today? The issues of what constitutes diminished responsibility, rights to legal aid and the death penalty as a whole are still hotly debated today – and as Loake shows, there are no easy answers… https://wyrleyblog.wordpress.com/walsall/tales-from-the-walsall-coroner/a-state-of-mind-george-loake-and-the-butts-murder-walsall-1911/

Walter. (Walsall Local History Centre)

Walter.
(Walsall Local History Centre)

Unlike for many of the Wyrley fallen, we do have some service records for Walter – albeit somewhat damaged. The fresh-faced Collins was called to the War in April 1918, signing-up officially on 23 April. He was described as 19 years of age, 5′ 5″ in height, 128 lbs (9 stones, 2 lb) in weight and of good development. His physical features were having ‘very dark brown hair and blue eyes’. He was of course unmarried… https://wyrleyblog.wordpress.com/wyrley-landywood/great-wyrleys-fallen-wwi/great-wyrleys-fallen-walter-collins-and-his-five-weeks-in-france/

Alfred Whitehouse (Cannock Library)

Alfred Whitehouse
(Cannock Library)

I thought it was time to return to the Great Wyrley fallen and the name I chose was that of EA Whitehouse. This man, I felt secure, would not be an error – after all, the Whitehouse family have been very prominent in the village over time: the farm that once stood on the Walsall Road, opposite the Swan Inn, and demolished when Brook Lane was driven through was called Whitehouse Farm and, added to this, there are the names of twelve other Whitehouse men that served and survived on the pillar plaques either side of the gates. Sadly of course, I was to be wrong.. https://wyrleyblog.wordpress.com/wyrley-landywood/great-wyrleys-fallen-wwi/great-wyrleys-fallen-alfred-whitehouse/

I had the good fortune, as the Archivist at the Walsall Local History Centre, to bump into Stuart Attwood a few months back. Stuart once ran a publication on Bloxwich, back in the 90s. He also wrote a few pamphlet guides on pubs – one of which covered Great Wyrley.

Davy Lamp in the mid-1980s. (Stuart Attwood)

Davy Lamp in the mid-1980s.
(Stuart Attwood)

Stuart deposited his photographs with the Centre, those that he had accumulated regarding the publications. I was zipping through them yesterday in order to see what was in it and what to do regarding duplicates and protecting the photos etc, when I found the photos he had taken from c mid-1980s of the local pubs for Wyrley area.

The Robin Hood, likely in the early 1980s. (Stuart Attwood)

The Robin Hood, likely in the early 1980s.
(Stuart Attwood)

Staurt allowed us to use the photos, so I have included them in my blog stories – and I have updated the Lost Pubs (for the Davy Lamp), Robin Hood and Royal Oak stories to include them. However, as they are so nice, I thought I would give them their own blog post as well.

The Royal Oak in the early 1980s, with additions, but before rendering. (Stuart Attwood)

The Royal Oak in the early 1980s, with additions, but before rendering.
(Stuart Attwood)

So a big thank you to Stuart Attwood. The Davy Lamp photo shows the old outdoor and the Royal Oak shows the brickwork before the pub was rendered – clearly indicating the old frontage and where it was extended to encompass the old outdoor area. Terrific stuff. Remember to click on the photos to enlarge.

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The Royal Oak developed from a cottage near what was the one-time hub of the village around 1842. A gritty beer-house, it clearly served miners and other local working men, as the court cases testify. The owner and publican had a second job, so the family must have helped run the Oak. Eventually, the pub was sold to a small brewery chain, the City Brewery (Lichfield) around 1900. They instigated a failed attempt to move premises (Norton Lane being now just off the beaten track), followed by an extension and remodelling to the buildings. The pub was taken over by Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries after the City Brewery burnt down in 1916…read the full story https://wyrleyblog.wordpress.com/wyrley-landywood/the-pubs-of-great-wyrley/the-pubs-of-great-wyrley-the-royal-oak/

Patrick Downey gets his MM. 2015.

Patrick Downey gets his Military Medal. 2015.

Read the updated story of Patrick Downey and how his lost Military Medal was sort of returned to him by the Harrison’s Club in Wyrley: https://wyrleyblog.wordpress.com/wyrley-landywood/the-harrisons-club-great-wyrley-war-memorial-history/harrisons-fallen-patrick-downey-mm-and-the-wyrley-memorial-gate-error/

The bottom end of the enclosure, including the former garden. 2015.

The bottom end of the enclosure, including the former garden. 2015.

A few weeks ago, Brian Holmes asked the question as to why School Lane in Little Wyrley/Norton Canes had such a name https://wyrleyblog.wordpress.com/other-places/the-norton-canes-endowed-school-on-school-lane-little-wyrley/

The applications for entry on the Gt Wyrley Roll of Honour for Benjamin and George Henry Smith, 1917. The handwriting is the same. (Staffordshire Record Office)

The applications for entry on the Gt Wyrley Roll of Honour for Benjamin and George Henry Smith, 1917. The handwriting is the same.
(Staffordshire Record Office)

I had decided that I would take a break from the Great Wyrley fallen soldiers to cover something different; however, I then realised that it was actually approaching the centenary of one of the chaps, so I changed my mind and I am sure people appreciate why. To be honest it wasn’t just the centenary that tweaked my interest, but also the fact that a second ‘Smith’ was recorded on the fallen plaque and this ‘Smith’ puzzled me, as it was out of alphabetical order. No prizes for my regular readers in guessing where this is going, but the thought of an error in some way popped into my mind. I was to not only be proved right, but that also that these men were in fact brothers. So, not only did it seem silly to cover much of the same family background in two articles, but it felt far more fitting to tell their stories, at least what we know of them, together…click the link to read more… https://wyrleyblog.wordpress.com/wyrley-landywood/great-wyrleys-fallen-wwi/ben-and-george-smith-brothers-in-arms/

The emphatically completed 'Roll of Honour' form for Thomas William James (Staffordshire Record Office)

The emphatically completed ‘Roll of Honour’ form for Thomas William James
(Staffordshire Record Office)

Read the tragic story of the elusive on-time Brownhills, Wyrley and Brummie man, Thomas James and how the attempt to get him a recognised war grave has took a giant leap forward … https://wyrleyblog.wordpress.com/wyrley-landywood/the-harrisons-club-great-wyrley-war-memorial-history/from-brownhills-to-brandwood-thomas-william-james-and-the-pity-of-war/

Harry Withnall's medal card, showing he reached France on 5 March 1915 (National Archives)

Harry Withnall’s medal card, showing he reached France on 5 March 1915
(National Archives)

The story of Harry Withnall would leave me a little sadder than usual: not only because he turned out to be an only child, but also that both Great Wyrley and Cheslyn Hay’s memorials have his name incorrect. Wyrley’s error is a spelling one, with ‘Whithnell’ seemingly as incongruous as having John Wilkes Booth carved next to Abraham Lincoln on Mount Rushmore. Cheslyn Hay’s memorial had the correct spelling for Withnall, but the wrong christian name attached – they had him on the memorial as William Withnall. Harry as a name is problematical in that it is a name itself or a nickname for Harold or Henry for example, but surely it could not stretch to William could it?… click on the link to read more… https://wyrleyblog.wordpress.com/wyrley-landywood/great-wyrleys-fallen-wwi/harry-withnall-can-i-please-have-my-name-back/