Archive for the ‘Buildings’ Category

The Workingmen’s Insitute, for which Thomas was President in 1901. 2017.

I was asked about a man named Thomas Garratt that lived in Great Wyrley prior to 1958, as the remains of an old bench seat dedicated to him and his wife had been found that had, apparently, once stood outside the Senior Citizen’s Centre on Broadmeadow Lane. Who were they and what was the fellowship that dedicated the bench? …

Springhill House: built in Georgian style, it is orientated to face the old gardens, not the road. 2017.

This is the second part of a three part article on the archaeological and historical landscape of Springhill (Essington Wood) with a special focus on Springhill House and its Covert, a piece of woodland to the rear of this house that once hosted the Birches Sun Club, a former naturist (nudist, in parlance of old) site…

The Hall on a later copy of the 1845 Tithe Map (Walsall Local History Centre)

I thought I would turn-out a few shorter articles that have their origins in the interesting questions that have been submitted to the Blog Facebook page recently. This one concerns a grave slab in Bloxwich All Saint’s Church to the ‘memory of HARRY PARKES Of Birch Hill Hall’, who was killed on 3 Aug 1833. It seemed to me that the focus of the question was the accidental death of Harry Parkes – and yes, I could help with that – but I also picked out Birch Hill Hall (Birchills Hall) and so I thought I would do a few quick paragraphs on that too…

The site of the workhouse on Sandford Street, as shown on Snape’s map of 1781. (Lichfield Record Office)

Part I dealt with the background to the poor-law both nationally and in Lichfield, as well as a little about James Wickins himself. This part will look at what Wickins actually proposed in 1775, and how that fitted into existing or influenced future practice within Lichfield…

Site of the Sandford St Workhouse, Lichfield.

I was rooting around in the loft the other day when I came across an old assignment that I wrote on the old poor-law in Lichfield, which took as its source a pamphlet written in 1775, which outlined the vision of a Mr. James Wickins on how the task could be more efficiently and economically undertaken within the city…

The heart of what was Little London. (2017).

The heart of what was Little London. (2017).

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…

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.

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…

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? …

Margaret Marshall outside the front of the Black Horse - with Alfred and Clara? Alfred became a brewer and I bet he supplied the beer advertised. (WLHC)

Margaret Marshall outside the front of the Black Horse – with Alfred and Clara? Alfred became a brewer and I bet he supplied the beer advertised. (WLHC)

This article has aimed, through two pubs, to introduce Walsallians and Bloxwegians alike to a little history of a once important cross-roads and centre of an agricultural and mining estate. Nobody bats an eyelid there anymore; and while these buildings have mostly gone, like the miners and the farm workers, the area in many ways is not so different. This article is dedicated to the one constant in our story – the people of Leamore…