Mayor Slater and party, with Julian the tank bank, in Walsall, 1918. Walsall Local History Centre

Part Five: this section looks at the Walsall experience of military ephemera during the years of conflict (tank banks, crashed aircraft, captured guns and Zeppelins), with the aim of understanding what emotions were experienced by Walsall people when confronted with militaria (friendly or hostile), and whether Walsall was unusual in these emotions…

The Reedswood tank sometime between 1925 and 1934. W05861: Walsall Local History Centre

PART 4: opens with a review of changes in Walsall and the army between the Crimea and WWI, then Walsall’s experience of WWI in general…

Walsall’s Crimean cannon feature, with clock and fountain, at the Bridge, circa 1865.

Part Three covers the lengthy and messy process that Walsall undertook to obtain and then find a site for its war cannon, without ever really having a view of what they mean’t, followed by the story of their rapid demise….

Wolverhampton cannon, circa 1862. An example of a local town centre cannon monument (now Queen Square), simply mounted on a plinth. The statue of Prince Albert replaced the cannon in 1866

The second part of this article looks at Walsall’s experiences and views of the Crimean War, how and why Russian cannon came to Britain, and why towns like Walsall, Wolverhampton, Coventry, Ludlow and Hereford sought to use them as features in public spaces…

William Meikle’s painting of the Crimean feature in Walsall (1938). Meikle was born in Tipton around 1858, but moved to Walsall in the 1860s. He would remember the feature. He died, at the age of 84, in 1943.
Acc 63/6: Walsall Local History Centre

Walsall displayed and then destroyed its Crimean and Great War ordnance and the purpose of this series of articles is to understand what such things meant and why attitudes changed…

The Castle Mill basin from the mouth of the mine. 2019.

This is a sad tale, which starts 59 years ago today. The purpose in writing it is to set the record straight, give a little dignity to the lady involved, and to highlight the limitations of memory: to show how individual and collective memory, rumour and simple acceptance of truth have, in this case through no planned deception, given birth to a series of exaggerated events that have seen the colloquial naming of a geological feature within Dudley as ‘Murder Mine’…

Harrisons Club in Great Wyrley was opened in 1909, as an institute for the miners from his pit and local people. Within a few years its committee and membership faced the problems of the Great War and the government war on alcohol. This article precedes that on the war memorials in the Club and briefly examines the problems such a social club faced…

Harold Chilton, of Churchbridge, Bridgtown and Shirebrook

This article will form a part of the forthcoming GWLHS/HLF book on Gt Wyrley in WWI… It is impossible to track everyone that lived in Great Wyrley and then left, going on to fall in the conflict; it did, however, feel right that I should find someone to act as representative for all of those that fall into this category, in order to show they are included in this community book at least in spirit. The story of the Chilton family, and it was Harold Chilton, once of Churchbridge, that was initially the focus, stands as that representative not only for Great Wyrley but also for our neighbours in Bridgtown…

Wyrleyblog: Catchin’ Up

Posted: December 3, 2019 in Uncategorized

Hiya Everyone,

I just wanted to explain a little about why Wyrleyblog has been so quiet recently, and where it is going from here. In August 2018, with massive changes facing Walsall Local History Centre, and in the wake of being a little on the ill side, I decided to move on and, as I never expected to get back into archives, perhaps look for a new avenue in life. The first thing to say is that this was a big decision, the right one at the time, but I do miss my the fantastic colleagues I had at the Local History Centre and in the Museum Service. I wish them well.

I decided to undertake another Master’s degree – this one being an MRes: a Master of Research (History) – which would help put my mind back in order and help me get back into an academic style of writing in order, perhaps, to tackle a PhD later and open up some lecturing possibilites. Therefore, I devoted my time to the degree and have actually put a couple of the assignments I did (not the most exciting, to be fair) on the Blog: one on approaches to Local History and one one the Greek origins of war trophies (both relevant to my dissertation). The dissertation, some 25k words, will be serialised on the Blog once I formally get the mark for it – it was on the display of war ordnance from the Crimean War and Great War in Walsall.

I was hoping to write the odd article while I was doing the degree, but I actually got back into archives – when the Cadbury Library (Birmingham University Archives) offered me a chance to work on the Toc H collection – a worldwide Christian charity movement that had its origins in the Great War. I cannot say how grateful I was for the opportunity. In July 2019, I was lucky enough to be appointed as the Senior Archivist at Dudley Archives and, as such, Wyrleyblog will now incorporate stories from the Dudley area as well.

So, having finished my MRes, it would have been nice to turn my attentions back to the Blog, however, I can’t. The Great Wyrley Local History Group, along with other supportive local organisations, put forward a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund to produce a book on the Great War fallen from Great Wyrley (and a permanent memorial within the gardens that reflected their correct names). In part, this is a rearrangement of the Blog stories, however, more needs to be researched and put into the book to give a wider understanding of both the war and the nature of community than just turning the Blog into a narrative. I am currently working on this and the book will be available on the Blog and digitally from the GWLHS once produced.

There is also another issue, one that is more irritating than a worry. My little illness has left a problem that needs fixing and I will have to have this done soon. Despite all this, I do have some ideas of the articles that I do want to pull together as soon as I can.

The first is the story of Dudley’s ‘Murder Mine’, and the discovery of the remains of a lady that had been undisturbed for decades. The aim is to treat her with the respect she deserves, while investigating what happened and how oral history can get corrupted or sensationalised.

The second is the story of an actress and singer, Nellie Nestle, who trod the boards locally between 1910 and 1920 as I have been sent an autograph album from Sue in Australia. The frustration of this story is whether I can find her real name – as ‘Nestle’ seems to be assumed.

The third was prompted by my dissertation, and looks at James Wood – a Bloxwich (or Blockswidge, as spelled by his discharge scribe) soldier, in the Devons, who went on to fight in the Crimea and the Indian conflict. This is about his life, the little we can tell, but also how his reflections on war, written in 1856, would not look out of place in 1918, or the folk-revival of the 1960s!

The fourth was to continue with the growth of Great Wyrley article, which I halted when my circumstances changed in August 2018.

Anyway, there we go. Which ever story comes first, it will be due to the availability of information – I hope you find it all interesting, or that it helps to get you off to sleep if nothing else!

All the best

Paul (Wyrleyblog)


Mr Bloxwich, Stuart Williams

Posted: October 15, 2019 in Uncategorized

I suppose as a historian I should be used to things passing, but somehow I cannot really get used to it. Bloxwegian, local historian, author, photographer, sci-fi nut, one-time Viking and long-time colleague at Walsall Local History Centre Stuart Williams – or to me simply Stewy – has passed away. Stewy encouraged and then helped me set-up Wyrleyblog and it hurts to see him go but somehow, if there is justice, I get the feeling his spirit is about to be presented with the Freedom of the Borough of Bloxwich by Gene Roddenberry – to the pride of his parents as they look on.

My thoughts are with his brother, Andy.