Walsall Lives 2009
November 28, 2014 § Leave a comment
After a break of four years the Walsall Lives calendar made a reappearance in 2009. The years that had elapsed from the previous edition in 2005 allowed me to add to my collection of Walsall photographs, memorabilia and ephemera.
The photograph that takes prime place on the cover is owned by Thomas Gameson Limited and shows their factory in the 1960s on the left of the picture with the now demolished premises of John Shannon & Son Limited in the background. In the near foreground is the junction of Peel Street and New Street can just be seen. The area where the cars are parked had once been a densely populated area of the town with over-crowded, dilapidated houses which were demolished in the early to mid 1930s. This area was always a good playground for us as youngsters as we made our way home to Caldmore from a Saturday morning at the Gaumont watching the “flics”. The site today is occupied by Asda Supermarket.
Don’t forget to click on each image as this will enlarge it when you do.
The main picture that opens this year’s calendar shows the Press Shop at Eyland and Sons Limited in Lower Rushall Street. The original photograph was taken in the early 1900s by either Frank, or more than likely, Arthur Farrington, both involved in the management of the company and both keen amateur photographers.
The pre-dominantly female workforce are using the fly or hand press, a simple but effective machine particularly suited to the making of buckles and belt clasps, or indeed, any other product that required its basic shape to be punched out during the initial stages of production.
Around forty years after the main picture was taken, Britain found itself at war again for the second time that century. The smaller picture on the top right of the page shows two Eylands’ employees of that time, Billy Nicholls and Arthur Fox both of Corporation Street on fire watching duty at the company premises.
In the bottom right of the page is the tool chest of a long time employee of Eylands, Billy Moseley of Sandwell Street. Around 1959, a certain twelve year-old exploring the contents of the chest discovered at the back of the drawers a very battered copy of the original football programme from January 1933 of the day Walsall beat Arsenal 2-0 in the F.A. Cup. (See earlier post titled A nice little earner for a damp Tuesday in June.)
Shown left is another picture of Bill and Arthur, this time with their work colleagues, also doubling up as fire-watchers, along with some juvenile civilian onlookers. The photograph, which was taken in the yard of the company premises, shows the tower of Walsall Town Hall in the background. This picture was above the text in the original calendar on the page containing the dates.
How many times have we heard our older relatives say, “when I was a nipper this was all fields,” well here is the proof. The main picture shows Brookhouse Farm around 1910, surrounded by nothing but green fields. The farmhouse stood approximately where Elizabeth Road is today, close to the junction with Gillity Avenue, see map at the start of this post.
The first signs of development for housing in the area came in the 1930s with the building of Brookhouse Road. Some thirty years later the whole area was turned over to what was considered at the time to be up-market housing, as can be seen by the newspaper advertisement from 1966.
The picture in the middle of the page above shows the island at the junction of the Ring Road (later The Broadway) and Birmingham Road in the 1920s, before any development had taken place. Just one truck negotiates the very simple traffic island, nothing like the complicated concoction that faces us today. Brookhouse Farm could probably be seen from this island and was situated to the right of where the picture ends. The Ring Road which cost £63,000 to build, was opened by H.R.H. Prince of Wales on 13th June 1923. Many of the unemployed of Walsall after World War One were engaged in its construction. The road name was changed to Broadway in 1931.
The picture on the left of the page shows the lower end of Birmingham Road in 1909. No traffic problems here, the only transport that can be seen is four horse drawn carts and one handcart, painted on the end of it is “K” Boots & Shoes.
The main picture above shows a tranquil, by today’s standards, Hillary Street circa 1913. The street was so named because of the wealthy Hillary family who originated from Normandy and built the first Bescot Hall in the 14th century. The original hall was demolished in the 17th century and replaced by the building shown in the top right picture, this in turn was demolished in 1929 after being unoccupied for seven years. The hall and its grounds stood on the site of Pleck Park.
In the early 19th century Pleck supported a thriving rural community which continued to work alongside the ever-increasing industrial developments that were rapidly overtaking the area. Soon the green fields were replaced with the soot, grime and smog of industry. To support the religious beliefs of the workers St. John’s Church was built on Pleck Road in 1858. The original building stood for 117 years until December 1975 and throughout those years the church saw its fair share of baptisms, funerals and marriages, just one of the latter is shown above. The couple were Pleck residents, Ken Hughes of Reservoir Street and Jean Jukes of Checkett’s Street who were married at St. John’s on the 21st March 1959.
Next to the picture of the happy couple is an invoice to Mrs. West in December 1927 from H. Page, confectioner and general dealer of 76 Kingsley Street, Pleck. Looks as though the lady concerned was buying her Christmas fags…… fifteen shillings and twopence (76p) for over three hundred!
Completing the page is an elaborate silver plated tray, from H. Field, the butchers, of Pleck Road.
The wonderful picture above shows Mrs. Lillian Chadaway standing in the doorway of her shop at 333 Green Lane accompanied by her daughter Edith Lillian.
The photograph was taken around 1935 three years after Mrs. Chadaway bought the business from E. Noake for £100; and that included the stock and goodwill. The original scales from the shop are also shown.
Next door but one to Mrs Chadaways stood the Oak Inn, the licensee at the time was William Frederick Wood. Mr Wood senior had a son, William Charles, who took a fancy to the young Edith Chadaway and on 12th June 1938 the couple married. Quite literally a boy meets girl from next door….well almost.
Shops like Mrs Chadaways, where you could buy anything from Bluebird Toffee to half-a-dozen firelighters and a mini Dundee Cake, stood on many streets throughout the town. In 1931 the Walsall Red Book listed 327 shops of a similar nature in the borough. Slowly these little ‘backbones of the community’ closed with the advent of supermarkets in the 1970/80s. Fortunately the Asian community saw their real value and continue to carry on the tradition today, alas, minus the scrub top counter!
The Oak Inn is shown twice, first around 1935, with the licensee’s daughter, Carrie Naomi looking through the top left window, and again in 1981, now with a totally different frontage. The premises are due for another make-over as it closed in June 2008 for refurbishment.
A great photograph of Rushall Olympic FC in 1924-25 takes centre stage for this month. The first thing that one notices is, ‘was the keeper standing on anything or was that his natural height?’
Originally formed in 1893 the team consisted of local colliery workers. Prior to World War Two the club disbanded but in 1951 the club reformed and joined the Walsall and District Amateur League winning the Second Division title in 1952-53 followed by the First Division title in 1955-56. They moved to their existing ground at Dales Lane in August 1977 having previously played at Aston University Sports Ground, Birmingham Road. In 2007-08 season the team almost got through to the first round of the FA Cup, falling at the final hurdle when they were defeated by York City.
Another amateur team well-known in the area is Walsall Phoenix F.C. formed in 1903. The smaller picture from an Ardath Tobacco Co. cigarette card shows their third team around the mid 1930s.
The tankard shown on the page was a Christmas present to the author and it celebrates The Saddlers winning the Division Four title in 1959-60 season. After fifty plus years of wear, tear and washing, the silk-screened names remain as sharp today as it was when it was made. The tankard is sitting on top of what must have been the smallest ever Football League programme to be produced by a club. Walsall FC used this format for around six years in the 1960s. The background picture on the main page shows a section of the 5,697 Saddlers faithful waiting for the players to come out for the final match at Fellows Park against Rotherham United on the 1st May 1990, it finished in a 1-1 draw.
Walsall being as far from the sea as one can get didn’t stop an enthusiastic group of Scouts from the Walsall Third forming a Sea Scouts troop in 1927.
Around 1933/34 an ambitious project was launched by them to make a film based on one of Percy F. Westerman’s books, Haunted Harbour. In the 1930s, Westerman was the most popular author of adventure stories for boys, writing 174 books in his literary career which spanned over fifty years.
The project was headed by one of the early stalwarts of the Walsall troop, Leonard G. Stanley, son of the owner of Alfred Stanley Limited. The small leaflet in the bottom left corner of the page above describes how the film came about and lists the mainly local cast. An idea for the plot was sent to Westerman who, in six weeks, turned the idea into a 300 page book. The film script consisted of twenty-five foolscap sheets, containing 44 scenes, 532 shots and 110 sub-titles. With just ten days to shoot the film work began on the opening scenes at Amlwch Port, Anglesey and included the S.S. Roamer as the gun-running boat, the sinking of a motor launch, a mill on fire and an aeroplane crashing into the sea. It was then back to Walsall for the remaining scenes which were shot at the George Hotel, the White Hart on Caldmore Green, the old public baths, the County Court and Council offices, the Head Post Office and Rushall Police Station. The film, which was released in late 1935, was edited down from 2,800 feet of footage to 2,400 with a screen time of one and a half hours.
The page above shows various stills and items concerned with the production. The leading man, Leonard A. Done, alias Dick Hargraves can be seen standing next to the girl in the white flying suit, Muriel Thatcher, alias Joyce Hargraves. Len is also shown on the extreme right of the small picture in the light suit some 47 years later in the presentation of a cheque to the Mayor’s Charity in November 1992.
At 10.50am some 85 years ago a camera captured the wonderful image of a bustling Park Street shown on the page above. In those days a street packed with a variety of shops…. as well as several pubs and the odd theatre or two.
On the extreme left of the picture is Boots the Chemists, where all of the items on the left could be purchased. Homocea Ointment for ‘all little skin troubles’ it says on the tin; Celery Pills used as a pain reliever since 30A.D. and for those stubborn corns and callouses why not give J. Pickles Foot Ointment a try?
Gone are the days when you used to see a chap walking around with half-a-page of the Daily Sketch stuck on his face after the regular occurence of ‘little accidents’ while shaving. No lather in a can in those days, pop into Boots get yourself a Culmark brush, some soap and away you went…..bloodletting on a daily basis!
Park Street was so-called because it led to an ancient park where deer once roamed, albeit many centuries ago. Studying the main picture it is difficult to believe that in the early 1800s fine houses stood in the street with well-stocked gardens that ran down to the racecourse which was situated where Gala Bingo now stands.
The picture at the top right of the page shows the Boy Scouts Pram Patrol, in Park Street, circa 1959. Enrolling in this scheme is Mrs. Florence Lloyd of South Street, Palfrey along with her daughter Barbara who looks slightly unsure about the proceedings.
The main photograph on the page above shows the old bus station in St. Paul’s circa 1950, with a Guy Arab bus in the middle of the picture and to the right a Midland Red FED waiting to depart on its journey to Birmingham.
When it opened on the 7th August 1935 it surely caused less controversy than when the current one opened in September 2000. A simple structure by today’s standards, it served the town well for 65 years before the bays became to narrow to accommodate the larger modern buses.
In 1931 a new form of transport hit the streets of Walsall in the form of electrically powered trolley buses brought in to replace the trams. The smaller picture above shows the number 15 Circular to Bloxwich via Blakenhall leaving the bus station in the mid 1960s. To the right of it is the booklet produced by Walsall Corporation Transport Department to commemorate the passing of the trolleybuses in 1970.
For anyone interested, and with internet access, there is a piece of 16mm film footage showing the trolleybuses on various routes around Walsall in 1968-70, film quality isn’t brilliant but worth watching nevertheless. To access, type in Walsall Beulah Library Roll F19 into a search engine (ie, Google) and sit back and enjoy 28 minutes of pure nostalgia.
The timetable from July 1954 is packed with information about the bus services available in Walsall, as well as many advertisements, two of which are shown above this text. A spread from the timetable provides the background on the main page.
Also included on the main page are five plastic discs of various colours and monetary denominations. An agreement was reached with the GPO (General Post Office) and Walsall Corporation whereby the postmen could use the tokens to pay for their fares as they made their deliveries.
When looking at the wonderful main picture of High Street, circa 1922 one cannot help be reminded of the quote of the late Sir John Betjeman regarding it:-
“Walsall is a borough which is obviously proud of itself and I thought that if the local council could turn the old High Street into something worthy of the charming and modest buildings, Georgian and Victorian, above the shop-fronts, it could be made into one of the most attractive streets in England. This is the age of local councils. Their increased powers mean that they can make or mar the treasure they have inherited from the past. Local pride can save a place…..short sighted cash considerations can ruin it.”
Around five years after Sir John made that statement the Overstrand was built completely destroying the view, up and down High Street, how poignant is the last sentence of the quote?
The view of High Street shown above is unusual as it shows the left side of the street as opposed to the more usual right side. These old buildings stood on the site of what is now Asda Supermarket. Occupying the premises at the time the picture was taken were Hodsons the undertaker; J. Cutler bird dealer where the boys are standing; Cottam and Co.; tallow chandlers and Gregsons chemists.
The smaller picture shows a close up of E. Gilbert, glass and fancy goods dealer of number 17 which was situated on the right side of the street looking down.
The wooden tube shown contains needles of various shapes and sizes bought from M. and R. Berwick, drapers and dressmakers of 38 High Street.
In the bottom left of the main page is an eerie picture of the old police station and Guildhall taken late on a wet night in 1924.
The final picture is of the top of High Street circa 1910, showing the premises of W. Preston, pawnbroker. This is the building casting the hard shadow across the bottom of the main picture.
NOTE: Apologies for repeating the quote from Sir John Betjeman again! I think I have used it three times so far in this blog but for me it is a very poignant comment well worth repeating……..just a pity no one in authority listened.
In recent times much has been said about the demise of the British pub’, indeed, the one shown above, The New Inns on the corner of Wednesbury Road and Milton Street closed its doors around 1996. The building remains and is now home to the Ethnic Advocacy Centre.
The New Inns operated under a beerhouse license in 1882, this continued until 2pm on the 4th May 1939 when it closed and re-opened the same evening with a full license. Albert Coley, who was the licensee at this time can be seen standing on the steps with probably his wife and a barmaid. This was in the days when the clientele made their own entertainment in the form of crib’, dominoes or darts and the art of conversation wasn’t quite on its last legs. At the top of this page is a photograph showing the locals gathering outside the premises celebrating an unknown event in the mid-thirties.
Turn left up Milton Street and weave your way through the streets of Palfrey and Caldmore, down Lysway Street and you will be a stones throw from Highgate Brewery. The Brewery was established in 1895 by James Fletcher, whose family owned Fletcher Brothers, wine and spirit merchants of Ablewell Street. Brewing began in 1899 and one of its earliest employees was drayman Bill Jones of 145 Lichfield Street. The smaller picture on the main page is thought to be Bill along with his ‘oss and dray decked out in its finery. Much has changed in Walsall over the years but Highgate Brewery, even with various takeovers and buyouts, are still there as strong as ever. Completing the page is a novelty bottle opener issued by one of the bigger brewers, Watneys, in the 1950s to advertise their Pale Ale.
In December 1943 Walsall Corporation Public Works Committee produced a document titled Walsall – A Town Plan outlining future developments for the Borough. One of the major considerations was how to cope with the inevitable increase in road traffic. A copy of the 1943 plan is used as a background on the main page and the new road currently under construction from Pleck Road down to the Arboretum is shown taking a similar route to the one that is being constructed today. However, the new road that cuts across the once open land from The Ditch/Ablewell Street to Upper Rushall Street was not part of the re-development. The new road planned sixty years ago was in fact a much more radical idea, had that idea taken place we would have lost Goodall Street, Freer Street, the top of High Street, Upper Rushall Street, Peal Street, George Street and Upper Hall Lane.
The main photograph shows the construction of the new telephone exchange (entered from Goodall Street) and Inland Revenue offices on the corner of Upper Bridge and Upper Rushall Street in the early 1960s. Below that picture is a shot of the Walsall Bridge Central Exchange circa 1950 at its base above the Post Office in Darwall Street.
When telephone became more popular in homes in the 1960s small directories similar to the one shown began to crop up, forerunners of Yellow Pages. During building of the new road around The Ditch area some old cellars were found and these were the subject of investigation by Birmingham University’s Archealogical Department. The small picture above, taken in July 2006, shows an old oven unearthed close to where the Bull’s Head Inn used to stand. When the study was complete the workings were built over.
NOTE: The plan in the background of the page above that shows the proposed redevelopment of Walsall can be seen in its entirety on my previous post Walsall – A Town Plan – 1943 style.
In the main picture above there doesn’t appear to be much Christmas spirit on the faces of the children at North Walsall Infants School Nativity Play in 1951. Maybe the photograph was taken before the opening night and a little stage fright was creeping in.
By today’s standards, the gifts of yesteryear were much simpler – take the spinning top, or is it a gyroscope? It came complete with a little tower structure which you placed the top on, gave the string attached to it a good pull and watched it spin, seemingly for hours.
In 1957 a Mr. B. Francis launched his great invention, Scalextric, at the Harrogate Toy Fair and overnight it became a great success. Boys, and a fair few dads, couldn’t wait to get their hands on this revolutionary new toy. The box shown in the top right is from a 1962 edition featuring two Aston Martin DB6s……..with lights. Build the track to your own design, get it plugged in and away you went; you try getting a twelve-year-old to bed at a reasonable hour on Christmas night, that’s if you could get your dad or uncle off it to have a go!
The background picture shows the Lodge at the Arboretum under a good covering of snow in the vicious winter of 1962/63. The same picture is shown in its entirety at the top of this text.
Nowadays people comment on the lack of snow in winter, the smaller picture proves they may be right. This photograph was taken at the back of a house in the Chuckery in the winter of 1911 with, by today’s standards, quite a substantial snow fall.
© John Griffiths 2014