Essington Laid Bare: Springhill and the Birches Sun Club (Part 3)

Disclaimer
Please be aware, this is a serious article and it contains two low resolution photographs from a British Naturism magazine that show the site in use in 1965. The photographs are anonymous and are too low a resolution to allow much detail or identification in my opinion: if you could be offended, please leave the page now.

Introduction: The Final Piece
And so, the end is near: this is the last 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, which is that 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.

Springhill Covert in 1947, a prominent feature in the Essington Wood landscape and location of the Birches Sun Club from 1956-c1976. (Staffordshire Record Office)

Part one dealt with the overall introduction, the background and the archaeology for the area (https://wyrleyblog.wordpress.com/other-places/essington-laid-bare-springhill-and-the-birches-sun-club-part-1/) and the second part took in the historical sources for the development of Springhill from before its enclosure in 1808 to the arrival of the Birches Sun Club in the 1950s (https://wyrleyblog.wordpress.com/other-places/essington-laid-bare-springhill-and-the-birches-sun-club-part-2/)

Springhill, 1973, showing the Club enclosure in the Covert. (WLHC)

This, the final part, will focus on the naturist side and will consist of two sections: it opens with a brief look at the history of naturism – hopefully placing the lifespan of the Birches Club (the 1950s – 1980s) into context- before looking at what little is known about the Club itself.

As a part of the sources for this article, I interviewed a few people about their memories of the existence of the Club and have incorporated their responses into the story (and if anyone who reads this article and knows of anyone that may have used the club and is happy for their memories to be recorded, please let me know as this can be added).

The Idea: Naturism, A Brief History
If anyone wants to find out more about this subject then I would recommend reading Edward’s account of naturism history on the British Naturist website, as I did http://www.bn.org.uk/news/information/about-naturism/history-of-naturism/ . I use this, other basic histories, information supplied by Stephen as the British Naturist archivist, and the John Pitman BBC TV documentary (1979) as my sources to this background. I do, as well, add my own thoughts as a non-naturist.

A short-lived club in British India (dating around 1891-1892), founded by a British official in the Bombay Civil Service, seems to be where the British naturism traces its origins to. This Society sought two prime objectives: the health benefits of allowing sunlight and air to reach the body – and one must remember the restrictive costume of Victorian and Edwardian society – as well as the unburdening of the mind over human form and sexuality.

A typical schoolmistress’ attire c1895 (Weald & Downland Museum)

It was Germany and France that nurtured the early movement, whereas, although the movement was known of here prior to WWI, it really began to take hold in this country in the 1920s. By this time there was already an acknowledgement of the perceived benefits of air and sunlight: Reedswood Open-Air School had been opened in Walsall in 1919 and sought to strengthen children that had ‘weak constitutions’ (asthma and tuberculosis, for example) by having them taught in a school that could lift-up one side of the classroom to allow air in and also to allow children to sleep on camp beds in the open during the day.

The plans for classrooms at the Reedswood Open-Air School 1919. (WLHC)

Spearheading the movement in this country were the educated, comfortably off and this is possibly why, with their classical education, they sought to return to the perceived halcyon days of Greece by calling their movement Gymnosophist (naked wisdom). In my opinion, and ironically, it seems to me that the movement was as much about conforming to their social values than seeking to go against them, as the membership of the first camp – the Moonella Camp, opened in 1924 – was tightly controlled and aimed at people from their own social strata.

From my perception, the change to a wider embracing movement started with organisations like the Sunlight League (1924) and, a year later, the Sun Ray Club. The Sun Ray Club founder, Captain Vincent, may have been more of an embarrassment to the Gymnosophists than a champion: he had been kicked out of the army, had had a number of court appearances behind him, and publicly advocated a naked march through Hyde Park. Be that as it may, he must have brought the debate on what was then called nudism to a wider audience.

The Sun Bathing Society was founded in 1927 and The National Sun and Air Association in 1930. Both of these organisations embarked on public awareness campaigns to gain if not support for total naturism, then the acceptance and use of more relaxed bathing costumes. They were successful, as further clubs started to spring up and the subject as a whole was supported by regular printed publications. In 1943, the British Sun Bathing Association was formed as a forum for both private clubs (though not all joined) and individual members. An international organisation was formed in 1952.

Not everything was plain sailing though. There was disagreement and dissent to this central body, so in 1954 a rival organisation was formed. This new organisation, made up of 13-founder clubs, was called the Federation of British Sun Clubs – and Sun Club was the epithet used by the Essington club, which seems to have formed in 1956.

Nudism, or naturism as it became officially in 1961, seemed to go from strength to strength in the 1960s. I don’t think we should be surprised at this in my opinion as the mid-60s saw the emergence of world-wide sub-cultures opposed to central authority in some way; the chief of these would be the ‘hippy movement’ and to which some broad parallels with naturism can be drawn. In 1964, the two governing organisations unified and became the Central Council for British Naturism – with 72 affiliated clubs. The following year also saw an advancement in official recognition, when one club obtained local authority permission to hire a public bath for a naturist swim (which may have been the Birches, it did so in late 1965).

The same period saw greater advances on the continent, which began to open specialist holiday beach resorts (in France and Yugoslavia, for example). Laws also relaxed in some other countries, as dissenting voices began to be heard; the laws in Denmark ironically were relaxed after a march, the very method proposed by Captain Vincent in the 1920s.

The later 1970s would see a wider acceptance in general within Britain: a series of beaches, starting with Fairlight in 1978, were opened for naturist use – the most famous, Brighton, being in 1980.

A television documentary was also aired by the BBC in December 1979 (available on You Tube), with John Pitman as the researcher. This documentary suggested several things to me regarding naturism at that point: first, that gauging the popularity of naturism in Britain, to see if it had increased/decreased, would be difficult as many that practiced it were part-time exponents and not affiliated to a specific club; second, naturism was more relaxed on the continent than at home as many British naturists remained fearful of some sort of social consequence if discovered; third, with a rise in package holidays and disposable income, many now sought the sun and sand – a piece of soggy, shaded woodland in Essington may not have been enough anymore.

The 1970s onward have seen a rapid change in censorship on television and film as well as in changing social mores. We are all aware that the naked human form no longer carries the baggage that it did in the 1970s, never mind Victorian Britain, and as a result more people engage in some sort of naturism today than ever before. The current governing body, named British Naturism since 2009, has over 100 various types of club affiliated to it (beach, swim, sun, sauna etc). It hosts holidays, as well as a number of events at established venues (like the Eden Project, for example).

The Birches Sun Club
The Birches Sun Club was was born in a period of administrative squabbling within the nudist (later, the naturalist) community. In 1954, the Federation of British Sun Clubs broke away from the British Sun Bathing Association over what I can only find out as being personal conflicts and ideological differences. The Birches Sun Club, as the name suggests, was to become a member of the Federation of British Sun Clubs.

The Birches was also born into an age of social innocence on two counts: first, it was before Britain had any public naturist areas and so any naturist activity had to be behind closed doors – or in this case, a screen of trees, bushes and hedges; secondly, this was also before wages and the travel structure really existed for cheap package holidays to sun-soaked destinations and so the only place for most to practice naturism was in Britain.

Stephen, the British Naturist archivist, said that the ‘Federation [of Sun Clubs] published a magazine, named ‘Sport and Sunshine’, that carried, amongst other things, news from the clubs, however, this relied on clubs submitting reports for publication and Birches did not do this on a regular basis. From the limited information about this club held by British Naturism, it would appear the club was founded some time in 1956 when the Shropshire Club and the Birmingham and Wallaby Groups (who had been looking for a site) merged to form Birches and began developing their site near Walsall’.

Springhill Covert, site of the Birches Sun Club, from Long Lane. 2017.

We do know that the 1956 foundation date is backed-up by a later article in a naturist magazine, dating to 1965. That article, however, also suggests that the groups that formed the Birches had undergone a ‘long search for a site near the Midlands conurbation’ and so that suggests that loosely the Club had existed for perhaps longer. I found one article in a newspaper that claimed there was a ‘discreet’ club operating within 15 miles of Wolverhampton back in 1937.

How the new club found and negotiated with Mr Horton for the Springhill Covert site we do not know. The site, as I have discussed in previous parts, is the most obvious feature in the landscape and yet it affords the very discretion that the club would need. It wasn’t for sale, as far as I am aware, prior to the Club’s arrival and so the whole thing suggests to me that considerable local knowledge was involved despite the membership apparently being from the wider midlands area.

Geoff Horton, the current farmer, believed his family sold the Covert for around £2,000 pounds in the early 1960s. It is possible that he was either mistaken over the date or that the Club didn’t purchase the site until some years after it was established on it.

The 25″ 1960s OS map showing the precinct within the Covert and the access track to the side that led to Broad Lane. (WLHC).

The Covert was described in their adverts as being about four acres in size, while the precinct within it given over to the actual Club ground seems to be less than an acre of it. The precinct was at the rear of the wood (as seen from Broad Lane), so it was more hidden from the hamlet of Springhill. It was of course screened all around, so the passing traffic on the railway and the canal would not have noticed it. Access to the site was by a track-way that led from Broad Lane, next to the house, to the side of the wood closest the precinct.

9 June 1963, this aerial photo shows the Birches Sun Club within the Covert. (Staffs Record Office)

The aerial photograph above shows that the site was developed by 9 June, 1963. The white rectangle you can see is actually a games court, but there is a building to its top right if viewed from the house (in the thinnest part of the wooded enclosure). The picture shows how it stands in splendid isolation from the house, Springhill as a settlement, and from Wood Farm (now The Range). It is interesting to note the old Springhill Collieries, the railway, the canal (with basin) and the mineral railways to the east of Springhill House and Covert.

Stephen went on to say that ‘In 1964 the Federation had combined with the British Sunbathing Association to form the Central Council for British Naturism [now just British Naturism]. In the spring 1965 edition of the British Naturism magazine carried a short feature on the club… and the winter 1965 edition of that magazine reported that the club had been successful in securing a naturist swim at a local authority pool’.

The 1965 article gives us both a description and the only two photographs of the site in operation that I have seen. It is described as being in a ‘secluded and quiet four acre wood, with mainly natural screening. Lawns and flower beds abound, trees are carefully nurtured’.

The pavilion and what looks like the grass access path. (British Naturism)

The article goes on: ‘A large, comfortable pavilion is warmed in winter by a log fire. Cooking facilities are provided, there are separate toilets and wash rooms, running water and cold water showers for freshening up’. The pavilion was a wood construction and at this stage clearly had no hot water or electricity, so one assumes that cooking was done on a Calor Gas stove. I am intrigued on how it was lit and the log fire in a wooden hut seems a little scary to me. All-in-all, it was basic.

The pavilion, sunbathing lawn and miniten court, 1965. (British Naturism)

The facilities (entertainments) included: ‘Children have the run of the wood for their games as well as swing, climbing frame and splash pool. The active can play on a first class miniten court [Stephen described this as ‘miniten is a form of tennis peculiar to naturism. It is played on a smaller court and instead of racquets, a wooden glove-like bat called a thug is used’] laid out by the members [which can be seen on the 1963 aerial photograph], or a volleyball court and plans are in hand for second miniten court’.

November 1965 saw the Birches Club seek permission from the then Darlaston Urban District Council (shortly after it was absorbed into Walsall Council) to have a weekly swim at their swimming baths. They had sought permission to use Walsall baths but the large windows, affording views from the street, made this impossible. The Baths Committee accepted their proposal after ‘serious consideration’ on proviso that ‘regular baths staff were not on duty’. It was accepted by full Council the following day.

There was one open critic, that being the Rev Brynmor Jones of the parish church. Jones, a family man in his forties, had his views printed in the Daily Mirror 29 November 1965: he felt that ‘The idea of people jigging about in the nude at Darlaston Baths is ludicrous. One can understand naturism in its proper setting. But to call THIS naturism is ridiculous. Hitlerite Germany went through this period of nudism [not one for over-reaction it seems]. Now it looks like we are coming to it ourselves. Why anyone would want to be at Darlaston Baths in the nude is beyond my comprehension’.

A petition containing 700 names was raised and presented to the Urban Council in the January, as the baths were being renovated and the Club could not start using it until the March. It was rejected, as many names were without addresses or from outside of the area. When Walsall Baths Committee took over in the April they honoured the existing acceptance.

The 1966 British Naturism Year Book included information about the Birches club, and a map of the location of the other clubs in the region. The other information said that there was a ‘jungle gym’ for the children (sounds like it had been improved), and there was croquet and table tennis available as well. The Club hoped a sauna will be added. It appears that the Club was looking to increase membership, but from the family (with or without children) and single female sets.

A map, 1966, of the 10 Clubs within the Midland area. (British Naturism)

The winter 1967 issue of the British Naturism magazine suggests that there were some issues over the running of the Club, as that edition reported that Birches had now ‘sorted out their management problems and had embarked on a programme of improvements and expansion’. I think we are now approaching the zenith of the Club’s fortunes.

It is clear that people from Springhill were aware of the Club, but from how early on in the Club’s existence is a moot point. I think it would depend on the age of the person, as the only person I spoke to that lived on Broad Lane was born in 1961 and only knew of the Club some ten years later. It seems, from those living further afield, they were in the dark about it until around 1967 to 68 (11/12 years after its founding). The subject was not discussed at home by their parents it seems.

Stephen said that ‘the summer 1969 issue of the British Naturism magazine reported that Birches had placed an advertisement in the local paper and had gained quite a few enquiries and a write-up in the local press’. I haven’t tracked this advert or the article down as yet and, although without the wording of it it becomes harder to fathom, it all still strikes me as odd.

Before I explain why, I am wondering if those I interviewed that suddenly got to hear of the Club did so from hearsay circulating after the article appeared in the paper – after all, it was around the same time. One I interviewed said the subject was the source of merriment of some of the local ‘moms’ while buying from a fruit and vegetable van on the Mossley estate – this suggests to me that is was a possibility that they had read it the day before.

Anyway, so why did I think it odd? Think about it for a moment, why take a club that is discreetly hidden as it is aimed at a selective clientele, because that is actually how it has to operate, and then advertise it? I do not understand the rationale for advertising it to people that clearly would view it – as the ‘Mossley moms’ did – as a bit of a joke. I wonder if membership was on the decline or, in fact, it was the opposite and there was a wave of confidence that prompted it. In hindsight, I don’t think it was the wisest decision they made, and I will discuss this later.

Stephen went on to say that the 1969 articles reported that ‘Much work had been done on the grounds including preparation for a swimming pool, completion of a second Miniten court, painting the pavilion and making enquiries about a generator to provide electric power on the grounds’.

A view across the site today, all traces of the pavilion and the courts have gone. 2017.

He went on: ‘A report in the autumn 1970 issue of British Naturism magazine said that there had been frenzied activity at the club and the swimming pool was virtually complete and would be in full commission next season. Plans for the new Miniten courts had been put back until next season. Other projects under consideration were a new pavilion and toilet block’.

Aerial photograph of the site 6 October 1971. (Staffs Record Office).

Things would change in 1971, they had to. All I know is in that year the pavilion was destroyed (or damaged beyond repair) by a fire. It was replaced with a ‘temporary pavilion’. On 6 October 1971, the site was again photographed from the air: it shows two games courts, orientated differently, with another grass court. I cannot make the pavilion out in the picture and there is a hidden swimming pool (more the size of a plunge pool, really), but I think there is a car parked within the trees by the track-way.

The 1973 British Naturism Year Book included updated information about the club. As far as the actual Club goes, the article mentioned that the site was generally used in the Summer months, but the club had access to Darlaston baths for swimming and sauna sessions, I believe, in Wolverhampton – leaving the Club to claim that it was the only club to have such access to Local Authority facilities nationally.

The article mentions the the lawn, two miniten courts (one suitable for badminton), the swimming pool (with filter), the children’s area (now with a see-saw) and so it all looked rosey for the Club. I am not so sure. The article does not mention electricity and the toilets were chemical, showing the continuing basic level of facilities. Further, and more telling, is that it mentions the fire of two years previous, but the accommodation is still described as ‘temporary’ even though they have had plenty of time to address it. We must be careful though, this may have been caused by difficulties with the insurance for example.

What I believe to be the remains of the now filled in swimming pool. 2017.

Was the Club on the downward slide from 1971 onward? It is difficult to say, but I think there are several reasons to suspect it may have been.

First, we are now well within the period of affordable package holidays to Spain and other warmer countries. Thomson had bought into the UK travel market in 1965, acquiring several companies and an airline with state-of-the-art Boeing 737 jets that transformed the economics and image of package holidays. As I have said, I do wonder if a piece of wooded, shaded, soggy ground in Essington would have really been seen as enough after 15 years or so for some members especially when they could travel abroad and try new specialist resorts on the continent?

Second, conditions on site were basic. Chemical toilets, possibly no hot water and no electricity hardly makes for a welcome stop, even if just for the day. Further, the original pavilion seems like it was never replaced, which possibly indicates a lack of finance or a lack of interest (later reports may suggest the second of these).

Third, Stephen asked within the naturist community about the Birches and one chap he spoke to mentioned land development (and I will come to that) and also ‘reckoned… the Club had so much trouble with intruders and vandalism that they finally decided to sell their land back to the farmer who had previously owned it’.

This is where I return to the article in the local paper. All of the people I spoke to – and all are of a similar age it must be remembered – seemed to find out about the Club at the same time and all admitted that they did try to sneak a peek but they didn’t get that near to the site and never into the wood itself. I would assume a lot more kids would have tried too, as well as hearing a few second-hand stories of adults trying as well. I would also suggest that the Club’s article could only have exacerbated or even have created this problem in the first place and, in hindsight, had not been a good idea.

I have no evidence to offer regarding vandalism of the site. Geoff Horton, the farmer, did recall an instance of someone stealing something like a generator from the site and being prosecuted for it (sadly, I don’t know when this was). I can imagine, kids being kids, that a few stones may have been hurled aimlessly into the wood.

The next thing Stephen found in the British Naturism archive was in the May 1974 issue of the their magazine, which ‘carried a very short report that Birches were in the middle of a developers’ and possibly a metropolitan buffer zone. An appeal was scheduled for June that year’. This is interesting, as we know the site is still there so what was this ‘appeal’ all about?

Well, 1974 was a year of change in Local Government. The old Cannock Rural District Council to which most of Essington belonged was absorbed into the new South Staffordshire District Council. It was bordered by Walsall Council and a proposal had been put forward by them (in May 1973) to build 4,660 homes linking Bloxwich and Essington, between Broad Lane and the A34.  This would have destroyed the Birches of course. Local residents and the County Council had objected (part as it was on green belt land) and this had gone to a public inquiry in the June. The scheme was ultimately rejected in January 1975, and I suppose the Turnberry estate was the final extent of this scheme (presently).

Things, however, got more drastic. While the result of the public inquiry was still unknown, up pop the National Coal Board with development plans of their own. The 1971 aerial photograph and the 1973 map above show the Covert surrounded by farm land, as it is today. It hasn’t always been like that – the current farm land adjacent to Springhill House and Covert has been ‘returned’ to this state. What the map does show, off Long Lane, on the site of the former Cannock Lodge pit (now the nursery), is a ‘Depot’. This was a small coal distribution depot, with access to the railway, for the open-cast mining that was already or had been going on in the local area (Jones’ Lane, Great Wyrley, for example).

In September 1974, the NCB put forward proposals for large-scale opencast mining over a large area that took in Essington (Springhill). The locals were determined to fight their corner again, the problem was that coal was a Crown reserve and the government wanted it after the country had suffered rationing due to the Oil Crisis of 1973 and subsequent miner’s strikes. The Birmingham Post carried an article on it, stating that it was ‘early days’, but open-casting could start in the ‘next two to three years’.

1977 was a big year: the Coal Board’s grandiose plans for massive open-casting over the area – even down to Walsall – started to meet considerable opposition and the NCB would ultimately have the rug pulled from under them by the government and be forced to scale it down. Saying that, their plans in Essington and Sneyd had started to come to fruition, when in mid-1977 the first coal was extracted at the Miter East site in Essington.

The Springhill Coal Disposal Depot in shortly before deconstruction in 1995. Built adjacent to the Covert and the Club, was it this that finished the site in 1974? (Martyn Jones)

As a part of this development the Springhill Coal Disposal Depot was constructed in the fields next to Springhill Covert – so one assumes the old Long Lane depot was not big enough. I dont know, indeed not even the Cannock Chase Mining Society know, when it was actually built, all I know is that the site was there by 1982 as it is on the OS 6″ map of that year. I believe the site was deconstructed in 1995 and shipped abroad.

The site was designed to process the coal extracted form Essington and Sneyd and send it on its way by road and rail, and as Essington was operating by 1977, it could have been built then. The site grew over the years and eventually it had a road leading to the site from Long Lane, hemming the Covert in.

The back road from the Depot to Long Lane, skirting the Covert which can be seen in the photograph from 1995. (Martyn Jones)

The link between the arrival of the depot and the demise of the Club is an obvious one. I can understand with the destruction of their rural idyllic setting after the coming of the National Coal Board why the Club would seek to leave their site, however, I don’t think this is the case.

What was really interesting is that Stephen said that ‘the 1976 Year Book reported that Birches club was now without a site, was not seeking a site at that present time but hoped to find a new site in the future in the West Midlands. Meanwhile it was organising swimming at Wednesbury [Darlaston baths] and a sauna at Wolverhampton’.

Several things come to mind: that the Club were without a site isn’t quite true, as they still had the Covert site but were actually electing not to use it for some reason; I also found it interesting that they were not actively seeking a new site to replace it, and I suspect the Club had found that having the site had lost its appeal; and finally, that they were looking for a future site in the West Midlands indicates to me that there was no real attachment to Essington as such, and so the site was expendable.

The last real report in the British Naturism magazine seems to date to 1979, and refers to the Birches Club’s AGM of that year. Stephen found a snippet in 1979 which said that a builder and the National Coal Board were interested in acquiring the club’s site “which had not been usable by members for several years”. This statement also gives me pause for thought: first, the site clearly still belonged to the Club in 1979; second, it says not that it hadn’t been used but, more importantly, that it was unusable for some reason; and third, the use of ‘several’ years as a time-frame could mean that the site became unusable anytime really from 1974 to 1976.

The Club itself did continue to operate for a while longer: Stephen reported that the ‘1981 Year Book listed the Birches swim and sauna as a CCBN member club… it may have ceased to be a CCBN member club or the club may have folded some time between 1981 and 1983. The buildings were still there at this time, although I believe the site was fenced off.

As I said, the NCB top scraped around the site but never acquired it; the site was sold back to the Horton family in the early 1980s, for substantially more than the Club paid for it around 1956. The naturist swims at Darlaston continued until 1989, but whether it was the Club as such or a private individual that organised the swims, we will not know. One assumes that the members dispersed and the site was eventually cleared. The depot was taken down in 1995 and the site returned to agricultural use.

Final Analysis
So, did the mining development kill off the Club? If we return to the position of the Club in 1973, I suggested the Club site was perhaps on the wane: the pavilion, burnt down two years previous, had been replaced only by a temporary structure; seemingly basic facilities; allegations of intrusion and vandalism, which I mooted could have been an unfortunate consequence of a local newspaper article on the Club in 1969; and then there was the rise in foreign travel and naturist facilities abroad.

By 1976 the Club had abandoned their site (although still owned it), which I find amazing as it was the famous year of sun and draught – the kind of weather you would have thought the members would have appreciated. It therefore makes sense to me that in 1979 it was declared as to have been unusable for several years, giving a closure date of around 1974/75, and that the closure had been forced in some way.

The trouble is, I can’t find any reason as to what would make the site permanently unusable: the club still owned the site, so it wasn’t that they were forced off by a landlord and there is no suggestion anywhere that the Parish or District Council had tried to move the Club on; the site hadn’t become a victim to flooding as the site has drainage ditches, or burnt down again as the buildings were still there in the early 1980s; no actual development had taken place – and if it had it did not make the site unusable.

The only circumstance that would really fit the word: unusable would be, in my opinion, through vandalism (and not kids trying to spy). It would also make the unusable only temporary – as it could be repaired. The Club did complain of it, Geoff Horton mentioned it to me as did Stephen’s naturist source, and it does make me think of the vague incident recalled by Geoff of theft from the site.

The Club may have planned to upgrade facilities, erect a new pavilion, and indeed, may have had a generator installed. I think, if this is true, the Club may have deferred plans when the proposals of Walsall Council were aired in May 1973 on a mini-town that could have took in the site. By the time these proposals were laid to rest in January 1975, the Coal Board had aired their open-cast proposals. I have a feeling it was the threat of these two developments that were the coup de grace – the final nail in the Club’s coffin – and that unusable did not mean physically, but practically.

I think, for what it is worth, that the demise of the Birches Sun Club was effected by the series of events I have outlined, coupled with changing social climate. If you agree, disagree or want to comment, I welcome you to do so… just politely.

Wyrley, Chezzy and Bridgtown have recently lost two community minded people in Eric Pritchard and David Battersby. This article is in memory of them and also dedicated to Stephen Amor and all those that practiced their individuality at the Birches Sun Club between 1956 and the mid 1970s.

With thanks to:
Stephen Amor
Geoff Horton
Martyn Jones
Walsall Local History Centre
Staffordshire Record Office
http://www.pastscape.org.uk
Lichfield Library
Lichfield Record Office
Jim Evans and Michael Albutt
Cannock Chase Museum
Cannock Mining Society
Findmypast
National Archives
British Naturism
Weald & Downland Museum

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