Cold enough for a hairnet missus….memories of Caldmore
October 15, 2014 § 7 Comments
Since beginning this blog some months ago it has been my intention to produce a post about Caldmore, the place where I grew up and had a cracking childhood. My family associations with Caldmore ended with the death of my mother in November 2006 when I was fifty-nine years old. My mother was born at 226 Sandwell Street and lived the rest of her life three doors up at 220, her parents, William and Mary (Lizzy) Moseley began the Sandwell Street family connection way back in April 1915 when they married and move into their new home.
Things were much different 101 years ago, see my grandma’s bill from A. Poppletons at 29 Caldmore Road and look how much she purchased for £1 8s 1.5d (approximately £1.40p in decimal currency) in 1913. Prior to her marriage my Gran’ was Lizzy Fellows who lived in Hospital Street with her parents and nine siblings, she worked in Caldmore at The Summit buckle works in New Street, opposite Dandy’s Walk.
In 1915 my Gran’ was new to living in Caldmore but my Grandfather probably knew “cracks in the pavement” as had lived there since his birth at 16 Caldmore Road in 1882, see my earlier post titled Moseley family of Caldmore Road to learn more about them. The picture of Caldmore Green, focusing on the White Hart, is dated 1915, so this is the Caldmore of my newly wed grandparents. The buildings in the distance, above the chap in the pony and trap on the far right is where Poppleton’s shop used to be. The other cart shown is for the ‘oss drawn carriers of T. Harris. Unusually there is a “copper” in the picture with the not so unusual group of inquisitive kids. Another store popular to the newly weds was that of Arthur Overton whose West End Cash Supply Stores stood on the corner of Sandwell and Newhall streets, his delivery lad, “our Granville” poses proudly with his bike!
I cannot recall Overtons store from when I was a lad in the 1950s but I can remember the row of buildings along Sandwell Street, I think one shop housed a cobbler where my dad used to take his shoes to be mended. The whole of the area around Newhall and Orlando streets was demolished in the early 1960s to make way for the high-rise flats and semi-detached housing. Newhall Street prior to this redevelopment was very narrow with old, high buildings on either side which made for a very gloomy stroll down the hill into the top end of Caldmore Road. Upon completion of the redevelopment I seem to recall people in the area being very happy with their new surroundings, almost thinking they had entered a brave new world….but that didn’t last long! Certainly Newhall Street was a much better street to walk down as the new houses had front gardens and the houses didn’t come directly onto the road as the old buildings did. A friend of mine lived in one of the maisonettes on Bath Street and although the living conditions had improve dramatically the language and demeanour of some of their neighbours hadn’t!
The picture here is from the 1974 and is taken at the bottom of Newhall Street which is on the left, Bath Street is straight ahead and Little Caldmore is off to the right. Fading into the distance along Bath St/Road is the factory of Matthew Harvey Limited, legend has it this is one of the places my Great Uncle collected bets before betting shops were even thought of. On the opposite corner to where this picture was taken one of the first betting shops in the area opened in the early 1960s, Bert Taylor, if I remember, correctly was the bookie.
My great Aunt Sal’ and great Uncle Frank lived at 2 Little Caldmore, running the tobacconists and stationers started by my great Grandma’, Emma Moseley around the mid 1880s. It was on one of my visits to their shop as a lad that I saw my first ever grey squirrel running alongside the building in the picture. In my excitement I rushed into the shop to tell of my discovery and great Uncle Frank said “Christ almighty, squirrels in Caldmore…..who’da thought it cocka! He wo’ get far though, some bugger l’ll have him in a pie before taytime.”
I have been reminded that I have missed out another well-known shop in Little Caldmore that of Nellie and Bob Aston’s shop opposite uncle Franks. They sold “suck” through to darning cotton and just about everything else in between. When my Mom was running Frank’s shop she used to send me over to Bobs to see if they could help out with change, of course I always came away with something for my trouble, liquorice or similiar. Close to the Astons shop lived the Anderson family whose son Gary, along with Rob Bradley, Dave Hulse and myself used to hang out together. Dave and I used to have bike races from Little Caldmore down to the Green and round to the Crown & Anchor on summer nights, your race was lost however if a car was coming up Corporation Street as waiting for it to pass was race over. Another street that was useful for bike racing was Vicarage Street which became known as Caldmore Road in 1936, but everyone I ever knew just called it the Vicarage. Bit more traffic, even in those days, so you had to be especially diligent coming down the hill……..and bloody quick on the brakes!
Another personal recollection of mine that is indelibly planted in my brain happened right at the bottom of Newhall Street in July 1962. My Dad bought me a new bike, it was second-hand but that didn’t matter, it was a Viking Ian Steel model, all shiny in a brilliant electric blue finish, derailleur gears, centre-pull brakes……….and there the problem lay! I had the unfortunate experience of finding my great-uncle Frank dead on his bed one Sunday when I took his dinner round, as I did every week. I couldn’t get in but I could see him lying on the bed through a chink in the curtains, I shot back home to tell Mom and Dad. The police were called and eventually broke in, Dad was already there, I was on my way via Sandwell and Newhall streets and it was coming down the latter street I had my accident. My previous bike had the brakes the opposite way round to my new one so when I applied what I thought was my back brake it was in actual fact the front brake. To apply the front brake when travelling at a considerable rate of knots downhill is not advisable unless you are determined to go through life with a badly broken nose. My new machine stopped most efficiently, its back wheel flying of the ground and propelling me forward over the handlebars ……….. fortunately my one knee slamming into the hard road surface broke my fall! No breaks but plenty of scraiges all over (a scraige to none Walsallians is a graze!). That hot Sunday in July just wasn’t my day and neither sadly, Frank Richardsons.
It was in the little shop at 2 Little Caldmore that I first heard of the plane crash that took the lives of so many of the Manchester United team on 6th February 1958. My great-uncle was in hospital and my Mom was running the shop, at the end of the school day I had to make my way from Whitehall Juniors up to the shop. That day I am sure there was thick snow in Walsall so my journey was delayed as the opportunity to throw snowballs every inch of the way wasn’t missed. On arriving at the shop my Mom told me the bad news, unlike today, everyone loved Man U, I think, so it was a real blow. The day wasn’t suppose to end sadly like this, the previous week me and my Dad had popped over the road to Sid Grainger’s Model Shop on the corner of Mount Street and Caldmore Road to order a huge Revell plastic model of the US aircraft carrier, USS Forrestal and this was the day we were due to pick it up! To remind readers of the shop I have include a picture from a page in my 2003 Walsall Lives calendar which shows the shop in the early 1960s, the smaller one shows the premises in the 1930s when it was the home of Caldmore Footwear. Also on display are a couple of 72nd scale Airfix plastic model kits that used to retail for around two bob (10 pence in today’s money), in the bottom left corner is a Triang Laundry Set, typical of the toys that could be bought from just down the road from Graingers at another childrens landmark in Caldmore Road, the Happy Anniversary. The next picture is of the owners of the Happy Anniversary, Mr and Mrs Turner with their assistant Nan Torkington, it was Nan who allowed me to use this picture in my calendar in 2011. The shop not only sold toys but also cards for all occasions, dolls, sweets, stationery, trinkets, ornaments and come the autumn, fireworks. It was a fact, living in Caldmore in those days we only went into Walsall town centre for a change of scenery not necessity.
Continuing down Caldmore Road, back to the Green, in the 1950s/60s I can remember Breedons Electricals where we had our first tele’ from in 1957, that shop was just a bit further down, past the far shop with the blind down in the picture above. Past Carless Street were some shops and one I am sure housed a cake shop and another was the bike shop of Benny Parkes, I think that was his name, which always had a strong smell of rubber about it. Somewhere around here was the grocers shop of Pearks although I can’t recall exactly where. Rounding the corner, opposite the Green itself was Lycetts shop who sold watches and jewellery and next door was the Bakers Inn, and then J. E. Dolmans the corn and seed merchants. The Caldmore branch was managed by the formidable Elsie Evans, a lady who did not suffer fools or little lads gladly. In 2002 I featured J. E. Dolmans Ltd. in my Walsall Lives calendar and the October page from that year is shown below. Note the vignette in the top left of young Elsie Evans, I can hear her now……“am yo’ kids gunna’ buy anythin’, if not bugger off”……and she meant it! My Grandma’ used Dolmans to buy the feed for her chickens and knew Elsie well, one cold morning in winter my Gran’ walked in and commented to Elsie how nippy it was, Elsie replied in her deep gruff voice “are, it’s cold enough for a hairnet missus!”
Although the picture above was taken at least 20 years before I was born the scene typifies Caldmore as I remember it in the 1950s. On extreme right of the picture is Rogers shop on the corner, the sign says sweets and cigarettes, teas and ?, and refreshments, I certainly used the shop as a lad but I cannot recall the name of the owner back then. There was a business run by a Jimmy Rogers who I think was a signwriter and picture framer, his shop was around the corner in West Bromwich Street, close to the Conservative Club. The Forum Cinema was where I saw my first film around 1954, my mother, accompanied by my aunt and cousin, took us to see Mandy, the story of a deaf and dumb girl that was a real tear jerker……..I think several people in the audience suffered dehydration from the amount of tears they shed! The film starred a very young Mandy Miller (remember Nellie The Elephant song?), Jack Hawkins and Phyllis Calvert, it told the story of a little girls struggle to overcome her handicap. The film that registered in my mind though came along about three-years later, it was called Hell Drivers and starred Stanley Baker, Patrick McGoohan, Herbert Lom and Sean Connery. Seeing a repeat of the film a few years ago I realised the really fast driving scenes in it that enthralled me years ago were in actual fact nothing of the sort, to make the lorries go faster they just speeded the film up……….a bit too much too! Mom, an avid cinema goer, also took me to see a French film, Le Ballon Rouge (The Red Balloon) and I think this was at The Forum. This charming film was about a small boy and a balloon that follows him around the back streets of Paris, he looses the balloon to some rough kids and then, not unsurprisingly, got it back again, this film was re-released on DVD in 2009. The Forum closed in 1960 and the rear of it became a paper warehouse for another fine company in the town now gone, the Walsall Lithographic.
The row of shops in the background of the picture shows A. J. Thompson, butcher, with the blinds down, the shop with the baths and buckets hanging was that of Mrs A. Mander, ironmongers, followed by the haberdashers of E. A. Boys. In later years I recall the greengrocers of Bedworths, everyone I knew called it Bedduths, which was near to where Thompsons was. I am sure they used to hang oil lamps outside in winter like they did on market stalls, I continue to love that smell today and if I catch a whiff of something similar I always think of Bedduths! Past Bedworths was Marsdens a shop similiar to the Happy Anniversary if I remember correctly. Out of view on the picture and the other side of E. A. Boys was Shelley’s Chemist a well-known name in Caldmore and Palfrey along with that of Thatchers, who also had chemist shops in Walsall.
Coming round to the White Hart who remembers subterranean toilets opposite and the enamel signage that used to greet male users, an example of which is shown………..you can always rely on me to lower the tone! Hopefully no one will be offended by this inclusion!
Have re-surfaced and turned left out of the toilets the view you had was similar to this 1910 picture down Corporation Street. The building on the extreme left, B. Brewster the grocers, was later run by a friend of my grandfathers, another grocer name Billy Craig. My mother as a young girl used to visit the shop with her dad and one day noticed Billy eating maggots off some less than fresh bacon. Mom, taking Billy to task he replied, “they wo’ hurt ya’ ma’ wench, they’m only full o’ bacon”.
The three Billies are seen in this picture below on one of their “Breakfast Trips” to Ironbridge or Bridgnorth in the 1940s. Billy Miller was a larger than life character who ran the butchers and greengrocers almost opposite the Crown & Anchor in West Bromwich Street.
The Trinity Methodist Church shown above was built around 1877, it was designed in a Gothic style by the Walsall architect Samuel Loxton and built in red brick with Hollington stone dressings. In 1894 the thin slender spire was blown down in a gale but later re-built. In 1953 the Church amalgamated with Victor Street Methodist Church to become Caldmore Methodist Church. The lovely old church was demolished and a new one was built on the same site in 1958.
Back in the 50s, if the sermon dried your throat and you fancied wetting your whistle with a Vimto, one could pop into any number of Off-Licences dotted around the town, like the one shown in Rutter Street, a stones throw from the Church.
Heading back up to Caldmore Green, opposite the Green itself was Caldmore Liberal Club and Stantons Fishmongers run by Frank Pomlett. Frank, who lived in a house on the corner of Bath Road and Little London, was my gran’ and granddads chosen fishmonger although a fair bit of business also went to the other fishmon’, Naylors.
Having published the post and confessing that I didn’t know when or why the picture below was taken several people contacted me through Caldmore Past & Present to tell me that it was The Queens visit to Walsall in her Silver Jubliee year of 1977. Now we know what the three blokes were looking at in the Liberal Club window so thanks for that.
Looking back towards Corporation Street this picture below shows the Royal Oak that used to be on the corner of Spout Lane and West Bromwich Street, on the opposite corner was the Old King’s Arms public house seen in the other picture.
While researching this post I referred to the excellent website of Tony Hitchmough – longpull.co.uk that includes details of all Walsall pubs past and present and came across an interesting item. In March 1882 an inquest was held at the Old King’s Arms concerning the death of 44 year-old Charles Lakin, a carter who lived in Spout Lane who fell downstairs and subsequently died from his injuries. A copy of the newspaper report is shown below. Being interested family history many names ring bells but this one rang louder than most, I knew that name. Sure enough, checking my wife’s family tree I came across a Charles Lakin who turned out to be the great-grandfather of our sister-in-law.
Sadly I have no pictures for West Bromwich Street but many names I can remember. I recall trying to place my first ever bet, under age I may add, in the betting shop that opened on the corner of Thorpe Road in the early 1960s. The horse was called Blue Acre and I decided to invest the princely sum of sixpence each way on this fine piece of horse-flesh, unfortunately my spelling back then wasn’t quite as good as it is now. On the slip I wrote, “6d EW Blue Arce Total Stake 1/-“, the bookie took one look at the bet and started laughing adding, “now bugger off before I tell ya’ Dad what you’ve been up to when I see him in the Lion (The White Lion) tonight…….and what’s more I’ll tell him you can’t spell either!” Talk about going home with your tail between your legs!
The penultimate picture shows a very familiar view to me, Little London before the flats were built. Some years after this picture was taken the houses shown, along with those all down West Bromwich Street to where the British Legion Club used to stand on the corner were demolished. The only thing that remained on that side of the street was the Caldmore Gospel Hall. After redevelopment the hall was eventually surrounded by two blocks of high-rise flats, a block of garages and a doctor’s surgery. On the opposite side of West Bromwich Street the houses at the bottom were also demolished, these included Dunphy’s Post Office and grocery shop.
So many things have changed around the town now but the names from years ago still remain entrenched, Heydons the grocers, Archie Boot and his papers, Mrs Russell’s paper shop by the bus stop in West Bromwich Street, Spooner’s fish and chip shop, Fereday’s bike shop, Seller’s the butchers, the Post Office run by Mr and Mrs Slim, Miss Moseley’s dolls hospital, Ault’s Timber Yard, Robinson’s cake shop, Newman’s grocery shop and a few hundred others too!
I thought to round off this post a final view of Caldmore Green in 1981 and a 1901 OS map of the area would fit the bill.
The houses boarded up awaiting demolition, 5th December 2020.
With thanks to:-
Walsall Local History Centre
Hitchmoughs Black Country Pubs – longpull.co.uk
Express & Star