Archive for the ‘Family History’ Category

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…https://wyrleyblog.wordpress.com/walsall/a-grave-tale-harry-parkes-and-birchills-hall/

The Cross Keys, Hednesford, where Freddie attended the John Wesley lodge of the RAOB not long after the picture was taken. (HeathHaysHistory)

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/

2 Heath Street, Hednesford.Home of the Rushtons and scene of the tragic fire. 2016.

2 Heath Street, Hednesford.Home of the Rushtons and scene of the tragic fire. 2016.


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/

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/

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/

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/

W Green's exquisite pencil drawing of a cat, Hednesford, 1903. (Walsall Local History Centre)

W Green’s exquisite pencil drawing of a cat, Hednesford, 1903. (Walsall Local History Centre)


Every so often something special turns up at the Walsall Archives; while I know it wont be the Domesday Book or Magna Carta, it will be something that is special to me. Such an item, in this case an ordinary looking Victorian/Edwardian autograph album, arrived from Sheffield Archives several years ago. What was clear, whoever the Emily was that owned it, it covered 25 years of her life at least – starting in December 1900. The book contained mementos of friends and family from the Hednesford, Cannock, Great Wyley, Bridgtown, Heath Hayes, Brownhills, Walsall, Willenhall and Pelsall areas amongst others… https://wyrleyblog.wordpress.com/articles-other/emilys-autograph-album-a-local-tale-pt-1/

The New Black Horse Hotel, rebuilt in 1899,  fallen on hard times and now demolished. (Stuart Williams)

The New Black Horse Hotel, rebuilt in 1899, fallen on hard times and now demolished.
(Stuart Williams)


The case that started it all dates to 1910 and is one of the first tackled by the newly appointed position of Walsall Coroner (it had formed a part of the south-east coroner’s district of Staffordshire until then), which was filled at that time by James Addison. The case dealt with a terrible and somewhat bizarre tragedy…
https://wyrleyblog.wordpress.com/walsall/tales-of-lost-leamore/lost-leamore-ii-death-at-the-black-horse/

Houses on Watling St, 1926 - 102 was Frank Emberton's after returning from India. (Historic England)

Houses on Watling St, 1926 – 102 was Frank Emberton’s after returning from India.
(Historic England)

Over the past year or so I have tried to bring back a little of the lives of the fallen soldiers from the locality, in order to show they are not just names on a stone and that they were real people. One problem with this is that the men that fought and survived are often overlooked, after all they had a life didn’t they? In this article I intended to pick a name of a soldier that served and survived at random from the roll of honour at Harrison’s Club, however I did notice that an F Emberton had been awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal and so I thought I would tackle his story. I have published the story today as he would have been celebrating his 130th birthday and his story would take me from Bridgtown, Cheslyn Hay and Great Wyrley to other places in Staffordshire, Yorkshire and Nothumberland, as well as France, Belgium and India… https://wyrleyblog.wordpress.com/wyrley-landywood/the-harrisons-club-great-wyrley-war-memorial-history/the-things-i-have-seen-the-life-of-frank-emberton-d-c-m/