Archive for the ‘Mysteries’ Category

Yeomanry occupying observation post (Walsall Local History Centre)


This article returns the Blog to the Cannock area and to the First World War period, but what turned out to be a straight-forward question actually, in my view, has opened the door on an interesting piece of general social history and has also offered a solution to a personal mystery on the Cannock war memorial… https://wyrleyblog.wordpress.com/cannock/tracing-a-cannock-tommy-the-thomas-bradley-williams-story/

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Whispers From The Past is available from the Walsall Local History Centre – £8

Unable to promote or advertise it at the time, some months back I put into book form a collection of cases I had written-up from the records of the Walsall Coroner: Lost Leamore – Death at the Black Horse; Suffering in Silence – Harriet’s Story; A State of Mind – The Butts Murder; Run! – The Ryecroft Plane Crash; Finding N – The Pleck Canal Mystery and, perhaps the strangest of all, the Curious Death of Maud Minnie Mills.

The cases, which date between 1911-1917, are of course under-pinned by tragedy, but they have so much more to tell us about what life was like at the time: they not only show us the warming reaction of the community of Ryecroft to a grief-stricken family and help us understand the problems of the Walsall Police in an age of basic communications and forensic techniques, but also act as a warning by revisiting a world with no National Health Service, little understanding of mental health and no recourse to help through institutions like the Citizen’s Advice Bureau.

Reflections at Woodward’s Bridge: scene of the death of Harriet and a few yards from the discovery of ‘N’

The book costs £8. It is available from the Walsall Local History Centre, or through myself (contact me via the Blog’s Facebook/Twitter accounts).

Anonymous grave markers,  now divorced from their graves, at the Burntwood Asylum graveyard. 2016.

Anonymous grave markers, now divorced from their graves, at the Burntwood Asylum graveyard. 2016.

The first of a 3 part article on depression in WWI, with special emphasis on the Cannock Chase camps. Part 1 investigates how well mental health was understood back in World War One and the story of a local soldier Silas Sargent of Bloxwich and Cheslyn Hay… https://wyrleyblog.wordpress.com/cannock/driven-to-dispair-the-dark-side-of-the-cannock-chase-camps-part-1/

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/

The Bridge. Lloyd's Chambers is on the right. The last place Minnie was seen at 11.10 pm (Walsall Local History Centre)

The Bridge. Lloyd’s Chambers is on the right. The last place Minnie was seen at 11.10 pm
(Walsall Local History Centre)

Over the past year I have recounted a few tales that drew my attention while listing the cases of the Walsall Coroner some years back. Several further stories have since sprang to mind for a re-telling, but none so mysterious and bizarre as that of Minnie Mills. This story revolves around a horrific event that took place in 1912. Maud Minnie Mills was a 36 year-old woman who was fond of a drink and separated from her husband by court order. On the night of the 29 April, Minnie was to be shot four times in the face and at close range; it was an act that the Coroner described as ‘one of the foullest crimes of murder they have heard of in the annals of Walsall’. Despite the bullets being lodged in her head, it took several days for her to die; indeed, she tried to carry on life as if nothing had happened. Despite the fact it was obvious to the doctors that she had been shot, right up to the last she maintained it was her fault – claiming her injuries were simply the result of a fall. By the time she received medical help, it was too late. A verdict of ‘willful murder’ was passed, but nobody was brought to justice for the crime… Click the link to read more… https://wyrleyblog.wordpress.com/walsall/tales-from-the-walsall-coroner/the-curious-case-of-maud-minnie-mills-walsall-1912/

The final page of Ralph's first letter, talking of when 'the British Bull-dog bites...' (Walsall Local History Centre)

The final page of Ralph’s first letter, talking of when ‘the British Bull-dog bites…’
(Walsall Local History Centre)

As an archivist, every now and then a collection comes along that peaks my curiosity perhaps a little more than others; this story is about one of those collections, or more accurately two of them. It started back in October 2013 when a letter arrived at the Walsall Local History Centre that was postmarked ‘America’. Inside were two letters sent in April 1915 from a solder, ‘Ralph’, to the proprietors of the Herbert’s Park Tavern in Factory St, Darlaston.’Ralph’ was clearly unidentifiable from the letters, but they do give some clues about his identity and clearly show what he thought of the War: his vivid account of the machine-gunning of stretcher-bearers chilled me. Then in October 2014 a couple of unconnected WWI postcards appeared, or so I thought. The name ‘Ralph’ and the handwriting seemed familiar. I had already listed the first collection, but could this wierd coincidence add anything further to our knowledge… https://wyrleyblog.wordpress.com/walsall/ralph-ralph-who-letters-from-the-western-front-to-darlaston-1915/

The Scarborough Rd Canal Bridge, from around the point where 'N' was pulled from the water. 2014.

The Scarborough Rd Canal Bridge, from around the point where ‘N’ was pulled from the water. 2014.

This story revolves around the unidentified body of a woman found in the canal, by the Scarborough Road bridge, in the Pleck area of Walsall. This body was discovered by a child on 31 July 1915, so 99 years ago this very day. Just how did the police try to discover who she was?.. https://wyrleyblog.wordpress.com/walsall/finding-n-the-pleck-canal-mystery-1915/

The prize dedication, 10 December, 1888.

The prize dedication, 10 December, 1888.

The Cats Whiskers charity shop gets an old book – Read about P Roobotham and the Bloxwich Sunday Morning School…https://wyrleyblog.wordpress.com/walsall/cats-whiskers-and-the-bloxwich-boy/