Walsall Lives 2005
November 12, 2014 § Leave a comment
After three successful years of the Walsall Lives calendar I decided to change the format from A4 portrait to A4 landscape in 2005. In this new format each month was spread over two pages, the top page containing the photographs and ephemera etc and the one below it a brief description of the items shown on the page above along with all the dates for the month. In effect the calendar over doubled in size but the price increased by just one pound.
The photograph that takes pride of place on the cover was one of two pictures taken by Harry Hallier of Upper Bridge Street. Pretty rare pictures by today’s standards, they show one of the street decorations that were in place all over the town in October 1886 for the unveiling of the statue in honour of Sister Dora.
To avoid taking up too much space on the blog I have omitted the second page containing the dates for all months but the text that accompanied the original main page is shown below each entry. A small example of how the pages looked on the original calendar is shown here.
In 2005 Kirkpatrick Limited of Frederick Street, one of Walsall’s oldest surviving companies, proudly celebrates its 150th anniversary.
Founded in 1855 by William Kirkpatrick, the company continues to trade from their original premises, manufacturing a large range of cast ironmongery.
William came to Walsall in 1832 with his two elder brothers from the small village of Dundrennan in Scotland. He began work as a draper, but in 1855 he ventured into the brass and iron foundry business. The early years of the business were hard, but his innovative nature combined with his determination saw the company succeed. In later life he dedicated himself to public service, becoming one of the few men to be elected Mayor of Walsall twice. It was shortly after being elected for his second term of office that he died in December 1887 aged 70. His home, built on the corner of Wednesbury Road and Corporation Street West, maintains its Scottish connections to this day, as it is still known as Dundrennan House.
The main picture shows the company premises in the early 1960s; these buildings were demolished to make way for the current building shown in the smaller photograph taken by employee Kate Perrins in 2004.
A company invoice that dates from January 1893 is addressed to a Mr. Elsley of Alcester for his purchase of the pair of coal tongs shown in the illustration taken from the catalogue of the same year.
The photograph in the top left corner shows some of the employees in the 1920s. Included are: Back row, left to right, C. Skett, L. Evans, A. Oakley, J. Carter, ? Cooper, J. Foxley. Middle row, S. Leadbeater, T. Edge, W. Edginton, C. A. Bickley, W. Dunham, J. Steadman, J. Bridgwater. Front row, G. E. Moss, E. Booker, M. Kirk, G. Walker, Adkins, W. Thornton, A. J. Philpott.
The photograph on the above page of Caldmore Green, circa 1910, is dominated by one of Walsall’s oldest landmarks, Ye Olde White Harte, and taking advantage of the free publicity available is the one-horse power wagon of Thomas Harris, haulier, of Walsall and Birmingham. The smaller photograph shows the Baker’s Inn, on the left of J. E. Dolman, corn and seed merchants, whose manageress, Elsie Evans, didn’t suffer fools gladly – or cheeky little boys from Sandwell Street!
Years ago it was only necessary to go into ‘the town’ for a change of scenery: everything could be obtained from the many businesses that became household names in the Caldmore area, and even a trip to the pictures was only a short walk away.
When crisps came with salt wrapped in a blue bag, they were mainly purchased from the ‘local’ or an off-licence, like the one at 63 Rutter Street, photographed in the 1960s and shown at the top of the page. On many nights, kids would go to the off-licence for their mothers to get a jug of beer, or if you were more sophisticated, a bottle or two.
Just look at what you could buy from Poppleton’s of Caldmore Road in 1913 for around £1.41, in today’s money: the enamel bath and plate cost only 35 pence, about the price of a packet of chewing gum today.
One of the first people in Caldmore to venture into the new technology of television was F. H. Grantham of 6 West Bromwich Street; he had been in business for many years selling and repairing radios. Mr. Grantham can be seen standing on the far side of his two-tone Ford Escort van at Blue Coat School Sports Day in the late 1950s, where he arranged the public address system.
There can be few people in Walsall who have not had a member of their family who has worked in the leather industry. One of the largest of the Walsall firms was Daniel Mason and Sons of Marsh Street but the origins of this company go back to Birmingham, not Walsall. The founder, Daniel Mason, whose portrait is shown on the carte de visite, walked from Cardiganshire to Birmingham to work initially as a collar maker. In 1853 he began his own company, which eventually became one of the largest saddlery and harness businesses in the country. Daniel died in 1899 and his sons expanded the business further, opening a factory in Walsall in 1902. In 1919 the Marsh Street premises were acquired and six years later the company relocated to Walsall where they traded until the 1970s.
The main photograph, taken in the 1930s, shows the department that manufactured school bags and satchels and is accompanied by a page from the 1934 catalogue for those products.
Masons manufactured a large range of leather goods from saddlery to dog collars and employed many hundreds of skilled workers, but in contrast, there were many much smaller companies all over the town that used their skills just as successfully as the larger companies to make a living. The smaller photograph is of William Rowley, a partner in Jones and Rowley of Algernon Street who were brown saddlers. What better way to show your skill by displaying the products you make by putting them on th’oss itself.
The two badges are of World War One vintage and were issued to the young men employed in essential war work to save them the insult of being presented with a white feather by ladies who thought they should be in France fighting for their country.
The photographs and badges are reproduced by kind permission of Walsall Leather Museum who also hold the copyright.
The Arcade that links Bradford Street, Digbeth and Lower Hall Lane was opened in 1897 and is one of the few remaining buildings in the town to retain its original Victorian elegance.
The main photograph, taken around 1910, shows the Bradford Street entrance with the premises of E. Grey, Westwoods, Walsall School of Shorthand and Typing, Regent Cycle Shop, Partoons and the Arcade Tobacco Stores clearly.
Many well-known businesses have occupied the shop units over the years and two of them that still trade today are featured: Buxton and Bonnett, the outfitters, and J. Stirling, the jewellers. The former company has occupied the corner premises at the Digbeth entrance since The Arcade opened, trading, as the 1904 advertisement says, as ‘Merchant Tailors and Juvenile Clothiers’. As well as supplying gents clothing, the shop maintains its reputation as being a popular choice with parents for school uniforms, including the ancillary items like the Blue Coat badge shown.
Stirlings the jewellers, known as the ‘wedding ring shop’, was founded in 1894 by John Stirling at premises in Park Street, moving to The Arcade in 1926, by which time his daughter had taken over the business. She remained for only ten years before selling the business to John Parker from Norfolk. In 1984 the business changed hands for only the fourth time in its long history when Mr. Parker, known to his staff as ‘The Chief’, retired and one of his employees, Chris Bissell took over.
In the bottom right of the background picture The Arcade and its dome can be seen in the unusual bird’s eye view of the area.
Walsall Cricket Club was formed in 1833 and is one of the oldest clubs in the country, but the page above concerns itself with cricket in the minor leagues in and around the town.
Posing proudly for the camera ninety-six years ago were the members of the first eleven of the Vicarage Walk Baptist Church cricket team who won the Walsall and District Cricket League in fine style. Home matches were played on a pitch in West Bromwich Road and during their championship season the team won thirteen, drew two and lost only one game. Although the individual identities of the players in the photograph are unknown, the team comprised the following players: – J. Owen, H. Taylor, F. S. Rogers, T. Sharpe, F. Sheldon, W. Startin, B. Frost, J. Attkins, H. Skidmore, F. Bosworth and J. Whitehouse.
En route to victory the team set several League records: in the match against the leatherworkers of Mark Cross Limited, they scored 248 runs for four wickets, B. Frost scoring a 102. For his efforts, Frost was presented with the bat used in the innings along with another from the Boys Realm magazine.
Another team that played its cricket in the minor leagues was the YMF who played their matches at the old Malt Shovel pub on Birmingham Road. The smaller photograph shows the team in the 1920s at the Malt Shovel, together with their blazer badge of similar vintage.
Leslie Welch, The Memory Man, as he was better known, was a regular on the radio just after the Second World War, astounding listeners with his sporting knowledge. His Book of Sports Specials was presented to schoolboy readers of the weekly comic Wizard in the 1950s.
The image in the background shows of Bloxwich Cricket Club taking the field for a match in July 1936.
The second page featuring Kirkpatrick Limited shows the wonderful photograph of the employees of the company in their Sunday best enjoying the annual ‘Gipsy Trip’ or works outing at an unknown destination around 1895.
Two additional items illustrated show details of the trip to Bridgnorth in June 1915, booked through Thomas Cook and Sons of 21 Park Street. The coins on the page, a ‘two bob’ piece, a ‘tanner’ and two silver ‘threepenny bits’ show the fare of ‘three bob’ for the employees; guests had to pay double that price for the privilege.
Six ‘brakes’, hired from Mr. Harrison of North Street, conveyed the party to their destination in just over four hours. On arrival, dinner was served at the Falcon Hotel and consisted of thick oxtail soup, followed by roast beef or lamb (with mint sauce) and vegetables, and to round off the meal, fruit and custard or cheese and salad. After lunch, the eighty-plus party boarded the pleasure barge ‘City of Venice’ for a river cruise, returning to the Falcon Hotel at five fifteen for tea.
At the bottom of the page is the receipt for the rail trip in 1914 to Llangollen on the Great Western Railway. It is unknown when these trips began but they continued for many years, finally coming to a close in the 1950s.
At the top of this page is the card for the ‘Welcome Home Dinner’ held at the Stork Hotel for Vincent Kirkpatrick on his return from a business trip to Australia in 1904. Vincent was the second son of the founder, William, and took over the running of the business on his father’s death.
All items shown on the page above, and those illustrating the page for January are the property of Kirkpatrick Limited and are reproduced with their permission.
The main picture on the page above shows the entrance to the Arboretum in 1933 when life was much more leisurely. Even the policeman on traffic duty had time to look at the photographer and the mothers with their prams had few worries from passing traffic.
Since the opening in 1874, when you had to pay to stroll through this oasis of greenery, the Arbo’ has been a playground for thousands of Walsall children and the setting for numerous family days out. The bandstand shown in the smaller photograph was the second to be erected and was opened in 1924; in its heyday it housed many famous military bands from all over the country. The programme cover shows the visit of the South Staffordshire Regimental Band in 1925, and in the background is the centre spread from the same programme showing the advertisements for the Arboretum Pavilion and Tower Street Baths.
Throughout the year, whatever the weather, the Arbo’ rang with the shouts and screams of delight from young and old alike, indulging in the simple pleasures of rowing on the lake, whacking a tennis or cricket ball, and of course, ‘three and in’ with ‘jumpers’ as goals, what else? Occasionally, as in the winters of 1941 and 1962, the public were allowed the additional pleasure of skating on the frozen lake. Inevitably, due to the infrequency of the event, few Torvill and Deans were found in the Walsall area. If the Winter Olympics had awarded medals for sliding around on your backside, the town may have had some serious contenders.
In 1951, and every year since, as the nights begin to draw in, the Arboretum is transformed by Walsall Illuminations, a show that is on par with the illuminations at Blackpool.
The main photograph on the page above shows Maude’s Motor Mart in Wolverhampton Street with three of D. Mason and Sons, vehicles neatly parked outside.
The vehicles are special-bodied versions of the 1928 Morris Cowley two-seater convertible and were used by the sales representatives to transport a wide variety of samples around the country.
By 1932 Maude’s had moved from Wolverhampton Street to Stafford Street and Kennings had taken over the premises, still flying the flag for Morris Cars and encouraging the townsfolk to Buy British. The advertisement features the first version of the famous Morris Minor – all for £125, nowadays the front wheel for a decent mountain bike costs that!
The 1927/28 driving licence shown, was issued to another famous name in the leather industry in Walsall, John Ross Boak junior, in the days when you had to apply to the Council for your licence.
Few families in Walsall had the luxury of a motorcar at their disposal around 1926 but the little girl in the smaller photograph was one of the lucky ones. The picture shows her on a day out in Rutland with her family gathered round their car, which also appears to be a Morris Cowley, but the earlier 1926 ‘Bullnose’ version. The other small photograph shows the same young lady, some years on, having a driving lesson in DH 9689.
The picture in the background is taken from a 1927 theatre programme showing the advertisement for Maude’s Motor Mart.
The photograph above and that of Maude’s Motor Mart are reproduced by kind permission of Walsall Leather Museum who also hold the copyright.
Additional note:- The small photograph in the bottom far left show a very young Freda Blanchard followed by a picture of her again in later life taking a driving lesson. Freda was a teacher at Blue Coat Infants and Junior Schools and was the daughter of Frederick Blanchard, headmaster of Blue Coat Senior School.
The main photograph on this month’s page, taken in 1968, shows the view from North Street looking towards Stafford Street and beyond. For many years North Street was home to the Walsall Town Mission, an institution founded in 1893 which was known as the Rescue and Preventive Society, a strictly non-denominational organisation. Its aim was to provide the young men of the town who came from some of the poorest families with the opportunity to lead a more constructive way of life.
The photograph in the bottom left corner shows the brass band that was formed and members could also indulge in games of football, snooker, billiards, table tennis and darts. The Mission even had its own printing works on the premises; the equipment to set up the venture was donated by Mr. Aspinall of the Walsall Lithographic. Initially the boys began printing the monthly newsletter but as their experience grew, they moved on to more ambitious projects. In the early 1920s the superintendent, Henry Courtenay Orchard, wrote a book titled The Police Court Missionary Story which was printed and bound by the boys at the Mission. The lad with the miner’s lamp, John Horton, also known as ‘Collier Jack’, is one of the Mission’s many success stories. He produced the illustrations for the book as well as writing the posters and signs required by the Mission.
The smaller picture is of the de-licensed Old Stores pub on Blue Lane East and Adams Street which was taken over by the Mission. Inevitably, the only refreshment available was of the non-alcoholic variety.
A similar society on the other side of town was the Walsall Brotherhood; their premises were situated opposite St. Matthew’s Church and opened in November 1903. Mr. Frank James laid the foundation stone for the building in July 1903 and the trowel used at the ceremony is shown alongside the picture of the building. The building was demolished in the 1960s.
The wonderful view of Upper Bridge Street that dominates the page above was taken in the 1920s, some years before the new Walsall Co-operative building was erected in 1934.
Many businesses have occupied premises in the street over the years and one of these, H. J. Pinson, ironmonger, is shown in the advertisement from the book, Walsall Past and Present, published in 1904. The shop occupied by them is in between the man on the bicycle and the car. The business later moved to The Arcade and then to Bradford Street.
The smaller photograph shows the Stork Hotel that stood on the corner between Freer Street and Upper Bridge Street. The building still stands, but has been altered considerably since the picture was taken around 1906; in later years it was known as the Dirty Duck and now as Studio 45. The aerial view in the background shows the rear and side of the Stork Hotel, which can be seen to the right of the postcard image.
The photograph on the right of the page, along with the one on the front cover, has only recently been discovered and shows the display erected by council officials to commemorate the unveiling of Sister Dora’s statue on the 11th October 1886. The arches were erected near the premises of Amos Plevin’s two businesses on the left side of the street, which is close to the shop occupied by Millington York today. The Victorian building on the right of the photograph was Walsall’s first council building and stood on the corner of Goodall Street. The premises were later to become the fire station.
How many people remember the Kenmare Restaurant, housed in the Walsall Co-operative buildings in Upper Bridge Street? At the top of this column is a price list for the restaurant, circa 1960, with prices that make your eyes water – or should that be mouth?
The main photograph shows the new George Hotel at the time of its opening by the Earl of Dudley in November 1935.
The original George Hotel was built in 1781 by Thomas Fletcher, previously the landlord at another famous inn, the Dragon in High Street. The four columns on the front of the building, shown in the smaller photograph, circa 1887, were added in 1823, cast-offs from the Marquis of Donegal’s mansion at Fisherwick Hall. In 1811, Thomas was succeeded by his son, Richard Moores Fletcher, who, along with others, was responsible for establishing Walsall Races as one of the most fashionable meetings in Staffordshire and the surrounding counties. The nobility and gentry attending the Races were well catered for at the George, so enhancing the reputation of the inn, and that of Mr. Fletcher. Up until his death in 1877 he remained a loyal patron of the Races, his horses achieving several victories on the Long Meadow.
The apparent coin shown is in fact both sides of an 1811 Walsall Token Penny, one of the town’s more common antiquities: every household today seems to own one. These coins were issued by Fletcher and Sharratt, saddler’s ironmongers, another of Mr. Fletchers enterprises. They could only be exchanged for goods supplied by the company – sometimes at rather inflated prices!
Another function of the George was to supply funeral hearses and horses according to the bill addressed to a Mr. C. Bishop in May 1865.
The background image is taken from the programme for the opening ceremony of the new George Hotel in 1935.
Christmas is supposed to be a time of happiness and joy, although one wouldn’t think so looking at some of the faces on the photograph of Whitehall Junior Schools nativity play in 1957 – must have been a bad rehearsal day!
Even forty-seven years ago, gone were the days of an orange and a few nuts as a Christmas present, but by today’s standards, the gifts received were still relatively simple. Happiness at Christmas time in those days came in the form of an Airfix plastic model, a cowboy outfit or a doll and pram. The humble I-Spy books gave hours of innocent fun for kids, and monotony for the parents, all those years ago, and if you were really lucky, you may even have got the ‘official’ badge.
The unusual and not very festive Christmas card in postcard format was sent by George Bird of Hatherton Street to his relatives and friends in 1913: hopefully they appreciated his sense of humour.
In the background of the page is an image of a frozen and snowy Arboretum lake photographed during the cruel winter of 1962/63.
Additional note to the Whitehall School Nativity play, I will attempt put names to those I can remember. A question mark will be displayed where my memory fails me. Back row:- ?, ?, ?, ?, ?, Janet Greystone, ?, Zania Bottomer, Robina Willetts, Elizabeth Mold, ? Second row down:- Susan Levitt, Carol Morgan, Hilary Thompson, ?, ?, Sandra Day (I think), Diane Griffiths, ?, girl who played Mary is unknown, Philip Sturrock (I think) who played Joseph, Peter Martin (I think), ?, ?, ?, Graham Barrows, Philip Morris (I think), David Letts, Diane Reynolds (I think). Third row down:- ?, yours truly, Stuart Ormonde, John Pitcock, Raymond Hyden, ?, ?, ?, Brian Burgess. Left hand group standing:- ?, ?, ?, ?, ?, Susan Horlick (I think). Kneeling;- Graham Worrall, David Harper, ? Right hand group standing:- ?, ?, Michael Garbett (I think), ?, ?, John Russell. Kneeling:- Peter Morris, Francis Gale.
To see the post specifically about Whitehall Infant and Junior Schools please click the link below.
© John Griffiths 2014