Category Archives: Brownhills

A Bit of Brownhills Memorabelia

A Bit of Brownhills Memorabelia

While rooting through some old photos, I came upon this old press cutting – I don’t know many of the people but when I was a kid I always had my shoes from Cyril Kingston’s – and I knew the chap next to him quite well too !Brownhills Early Closers Chase Post 12-5-1994From the Chase Post 12th May 1994

Brownhills Town and Canal Festivals

Brownhills Town and Canal Festivals.

121 – A tale from Brownhills Station – Chasewater News Dec 1989

121Chasewater Railway Museum Bits & Pieces

From Chasewater News December 1989 – 2

Brownhills Memories – P.Aldridge

Sidney Browne worked on the railways in the area foe nearly fifty years.  Like many railway men he had many anecdotes recalling his long service.  Sadly Sid died in 1985, but many of his tales are well-remembered by his grandson, Peter Aldridge, who now works on the railway at Chasewater.  One of these tales is now recalled, and if it is not true, it ought to be!In the 1950s Sid worked for British Railways at Brownhills Station in High Street.  One morning in late summer a local resident by the name of Meacher arrived in his brand new Austin motor car.  Pic by oakparkrunner -sorry, don’t know which model – here’s three to chose from

Wikipedia

Before catching his train Mr. Meacher entrusted his car keys to the Station Master.  The train, an excursion to Blackpool, arrived hauled by a Bescot ‘super D’, and plodded off towards Lichfield.Super D at Consall, Churnet Valley Railway, 2005  http://www.steampics.com/html/super_d.html

Later that morning some of the other station staff reported for work.  They immediately took a shine to the new car parked in the station yard, and promptly purloined the ignition keys and drove off towards Cannock.  Sid, being rather busy, remained at Brownhills.

The day wore on and the Austin did not re-appear.  The evening came, still without any sign of the car or its occupants, and Sid began to get worried.  What would he do if the owner came back and found his beloved car missing?

Sure enough at 11.30pm a grimy ‘super D’ wheezed up the long climb through Hammerwich, past Anglesey Sidings and into Brownhills.  There was Mr. Meacher fast asleep.  Carefully opening the carriage doors, Sid called out in a faint whisper “Brownhills….Brownhills” and then quietly sent the train on its way, with Mr. Meacher, fast asleep, still on board.

Half-an-hour later the phone rang….”Hello” came a voice “Is that Brownhills railway station?  This is Mr. Meacher.  I must have fallen asleep on the train and missed my stop”.

“Yes” replied Sid “I looked for you everywhere, I walked up and down the train calling ‘Brownhills’ as loud as I could”.

“Oh well” said Mr. Meacher “Never mind, I’ll get a taxi home from Walsall and collect my car tomorrow”.

“That’s alright; I’ll look after the car for you! Said Sid, and put down the phone.

At ten to two the Austin re-appeared, being pushed by some very hot and tired railwaymen.  The car had run out of petrol near Milford Common, and having spent all their money on beer, they could not buy any petrol from a garage.Barley Mow on the corner of Milford Common
© Copyright David Bagshaw and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Needless to say the joyriders were sent out early next morning so that Mr. Meacher would, hopefully, never know about his car’s unauthorised – not to mention illegal-day out!

Brownhills – The Spot Bridge, Pier Street.

The Spot Bridge, Brownhills.

 “You cannot be serious”

Yes I can, and it is Wimbledon fortnight!!

Photo – BCN Photo Gallery

While visiting the Brownhills Canal Festival, I crossed the bridge and thought – “it doesn’t sing to you like the old one used to”.  To try to explain, when you climbed the steps of the old metal bridge, you heard a definite ‘Dong-Dong-Dong’ and when you crossed the bridge itself, it changed to’ Bong  –  Bong  –  Bong’ not quite a modern ‘Boing’ definitely ‘Bong’.  Then, of course it was back to the Dongs as you climbed back down.  The new bridge, a very nice one of the modern style, unfortunately has no voice at all – it’s just there to be walked over – sad, really.  Since I left Brownhills in 1960, I can only remember crossing the old bridge once, about seven or eight years ago, but the sound was unmistakeable – and unforgettable.  I hope I’m not the only one to remember it!  One thing about the bridge that I don’t remember, and that is calling it the ‘Spot Bridge’, it’s somewhere in the back of my brain (with everything else these days!) but I don’t ever remember using the name.One thing I will say in favour of the new bridge – it’s not just good for disabled people to use, also dogs that are getting past their sell by date.  My Dobe, Ellie, comes into that category nowadays, she looks in fine fettle but struggles to run with any speed at all.  She is very arthriticky (good word, eh!) in her back end due in no small part to not being able to be exercised for nearly 12 months after an accident chasing a squirrel in which she snapped all the tendons in her right front leg, which now has a plate and a number of bolts holding it together – it’s probably the best leg she’s got these days!  All of this means that she has great difficulty in climbing steps, so without the new bridge and its ramps, we would have been stuck on the Brownhills side of the canal!

Chasewater Railway Museum News – Our Latest Donation – From Brownhills!

Chasewater Railway Museum News

 Our Latest Donation – From Brownhills!

 While the museum was open for the Industrial Railway Society meeting and AGM, we received a visit from Douglas Birch MBE from Brownhills.  He offered, and we were proud to accept, an old leg vice, believed to have been used at the loco shed at Harrison’s Old Yard in the mid-nineteenth century.  I shall reproduce the full information that Doug provided.Barry Bull (Museum Curator) with Doug Birch and the leg vice.

 William Harrison’s, Brownhills Common.

By Douglas Birch MBE

‘Harrison’s Old Yard’ was situated on Wyrley Common near to the Shant Bridge over the former LNWR mineral line on the A5 at Brownhills West.

The yard consisted of Workshops, Admin. Offices, Loco Shed, Sawmill and Cottages servicing the adjacent Cathedral Colliery and a number of other small pits in the locality.

A crane hire company now occupies some of the original buildings.  When the Wyrley Grove Colliery was sunk in 1870 all operations and plant was moved to the new site where a much bigger complex was built, which in part eventually served two other new collieries in the Harrison Group – Wyrley No.3 (The Sinking) and Mid-Cannock, including extensive wagon repair shops, sawmill and a new loco shed with space for four engines.

My grandfather, Arthur John Birch, was Head Engine fitter around the turn of the century both at the Old Yard and at Wyrley Grove.  He was succeeded by his son Oliver, my uncle, in the early 1920s.  Oliver held the position until his death in the early 1960s.  His son Arthur John in turn succeeded him until the closure of the Grove in 1963.

I too spent all my working life in the coal industry as a Mechanical Engineer.  The first eighteen years in the Grove Pit fitting shop.  My final twenty years in the industry was as a Safety and Training Officer at Cannock Central Workshops.

The leg vice I am offering to your museum may be of interest because it is considered to be a family heirloom and has passed down from my grandfather to my father, and then to me.  I have had it in my workshop since 1953 and it was in my father’s workshop (he was a carpenter) for a similar period before that.  The historical interest is that we have always understood that the vice originated from the loco shed at Harrison’s Old Yard via my grandfather which makes it very old indeed and worthy of preservation.  It would be an awful shame if the vice went for scrap after surviving for so long.

 William Harrison’s Steam Locomotives

Cathedral Pit

‘Emlyn’                 0-6-0ST scrapped 1920

‘Black Prince’       0-6-0ST scrapped 1909

‘Agincourt’            0-6-0ST scrapped 1906

‘Success’              0-6-0ST scrapped 1913  (Purchased 1869)

‘Warrior’                0-6-0ST scrapped 1933

Grove Pit

‘No.3                     0-6-0ST Purchased new 1895 Peckett    To NCB‘The Colonel’        0-6-0ST Purchased new 1914  Hudswell Clarke  To NCB

Loco Driver – Harry Jones

Steam Crane Driver – Jack Jones  (This crane was manufactured in France and reputedly saw military service during the 1914 – 1918 war.

Loco Fireman – Charles Dalton.Many Thanks, Doug.

Brownhills – Just one photo!

The Railway Tavern

One of the members of the Chasewater Railway had a clearout of magazines and brought some of the old ones into the museum to sell or keep.  I had to go through them all of course – great stuff! One picture more than any other took my interest – the Railway Tavern formerly in Lichfield Road.This photo was taken from the ‘Railway Forum’ of 1970

I can only remember going to this pub once.  There was a Darts League Dinner and Presentation at the Memo which my wife and I and two good friends were going to.  Sadly, we were too late for the dinner – they were almost on the sweet course – so we popped up the road for a quickie (or two!) in the Railway – and that was it, my entire drinking career in the Railway.  (We did one hell of a lot more in the Memo later, from what I can remember!)

I can’t recall ever seeing a photo of the inside of the Railway before so it brought back some good memories – I hope it does for others, too.Photo by Brian Walker, 1993.  members.madasafish.com

Brownhills – A Bit More from the Fifties

Vicarage Road, Brownhills (Pic  – Jean Hucker)

It is fifty years ago this month since I left Brownhills – where did that go?  I used to live in the house behind Ken Williams and Henry Taylor.  This month is also special because on the 26th, my father would have been 100 years old.

In my previous Brownhills post I had got down Church Hill as far as the rear entrance to some of the High Street shops, including my Grandma’s.  Just down the road on the opposite side stands the Shoulder of Mutton public house, still with Mr. Roberts’ window.

The Shoulder of Mutton

Roberts’ window with the trade mark steam locomotive in the centre

Moving to the bottom of the road, Gordon Roberts had his barber’s shop.Not the hairdressers as it is now but Gordon’s barber’s was where Cresswells is now.  He was a very good barber but he took his time!  If there were more than two in front of you , it would be at least an hour before you got out!

Turning left along High Street towards Brickiln Street (it was hard spelling it that way!) the next picture that I have is of the shops which had their rear entrance in Church Hill.  From the left, the MEB showroom, Tisdale’s fish shop, Smiths fireplaces, Flossie Rogers’ greengrocers and Bradbury’s.Pic from ‘Memories of Brownhills Past’ by Clarice Mayo and Geoff Harrington.

Down High Street and across the road was Cyril Kingston’s shoe shop.It is now a Solicitor’s office, but the white door on the right of the green framed window hides what used to be the only sports goods display in Brownhills.  The best shop window in the town! In those days football shorts were only available in white, blue or black – but then, one day I saw them, a red pair of football shorts.  It wasn’t long before I had them and was getting them covered in mud over the batters!

Opposite was Daft’s fish and chip shop, Jones’ the Jewellers, later Lotes and Joes.Phonetalk was Daft’s, then the Jewellers then Joe’s

To end this post, a walk over the bridge to the entrance to the park.The Library car park is to the right, the site of public conveniences in those pre-vandal days!  I’m sure that the bank on the left was much steeper when I were a lad.  I remember once a glider, a full size one, landed on the parade, coming to rest just short of the top of the bank.  (It couldn’t happen now with my ‘favourite’ trees in the way!)

Brownhills in the Fifties

Brownhills in the Fifties

There was a question on a radio pop quiz which triggered a memory from some fifty-odd years ago.  The question was ‘Who made the record ’Why do fools fall in love?’  The answer was Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, in 1956.

The memory was of a picture in F.W.Cater’s shop window in High Street of the group wearing sweaters with a large letter ’T’ on the front.  A quick visit to Google soon found it!  I was at school in Walsall in those days and used to catch the number 23 bus from Brownhills to Walsall from the stop outside Cater’s shop.  I think it was the only place in Brownhills where you could buy records at that time, and they used to display the ‘Top Twenty’ records each week (and sheet music!).

The shop hasn’t belonged to Cater’s for many years, I know that at one time it was a motor-bike showroom, and according to this photo, it was a restaurant,  but according to google street maps now it’s a carpet and furniture shop.

Across the road is Farmfoods, where the old Co-op used to be.  It was great to go in there, they had a cashier’s office where all the money was sent and change and receipts issued.  The money was put into a container and attached to a device which sent it by wire across the ceiling to the office where the sale was recorded and the change and receipt sent back by the same method.  It was pure magic to a child!

Moving up Brickiln (Bricklin!! to us older residents) Street the former Doctors’ surgery hasn’t changed much but now it’s a Veterinary surgery, and across the road from that was the former library.  I was one of the early members when it first opened – I can even remember my first book which I borrowed – ‘Swallows and Amazons’ by Arthur Ransome. – funny how some things stick in the memory.

Talking of the memory, there are a few things in this same area which have remained the same since I left Brownhills in 1960 until about five years ago.  Number one, the Church Hall in Vicarage Road had a new front door fitted, the first new one, I think, since the original in 1954.  Next was the gate and fence around the School Field in the Back Lane.  I know that it’s Short Street now, but to us it was the back lane.  I’m going back now to the early fifties, us football playing lads were, I’m sure, under 10 years old, and the girl’s school (the Junior School nowadays, I think) hockey pitch was the only place that we could play with proper goal-posts – I know they were small but so were we!  We could crawl under the gate in those days, the more ambitious would climb over – not me!

Number three in the changes was at the end of the drive in Church Hill (Road if you like!) leading to the rear of some of the shops in High Street, including Woodhouse’s, the Undertakers, the MEB Showroom (Midlands Electricity Board as it was) and Tisdale’s fish shop.  You could also reach Smith’s Fireplace Shop and Roger’s Greengrocers. 

The big tree was the first tree on the right looking up Church Hill.

At the end of this drive stood a big tree. It was one of our goal-post when we played in the yard (if the ball went into the road it was a goal – not many cars in those days!)  This tree had been there all of our lives and longer before it was cut down sometime after 2000.  Shame, but I don’t think it can have been too safe after all those years!

More of my Brownhills

On my Brownhills Walk earlier in the year, I took some photos along the Wyrley and Essington Canal Anglesey Branch.  One in particular made me wonder – what was there before the M6 Toll?Then we had the collection of old photographs from Laurence Hodgkinson and there was the answer:Taken in 1966, a level crossing over Wharf Lane and the railway line, as straight as an arrow, down to Anglesey Sidings/Charrington’s depot/transport yard.  You can even see one of the large storage tanks in the distance.This is the view from Wharf Lane canal bridge,and this is a similar view now.The trackbed still looks straight – what you can see of it!And on to Newtown Bridge!

There were a number of old buildings to the left of Wharf Lane, including the old stables and a water tower.

I wonder who’s got the ‘Whistle’ sign?

These railway remains were the line from the collieries down to Anglesey Sidings where the line joined the LNWR line from Wychnor to Bescot – nowadays more commonly known as the Lichfield to Walsall line.  From there the coal could transported to just about anywhere in the country, although a lot of it was used in the Black Country.

The colliery involved in this railway was the Cannock Chase Colliery Company, which ultimately had 10 pits in the area, although they weren’t all in operation at the same time.  In the very early years of No.1 and 2 collieries, the canal was mainly used, but then McClean completed the rail system.  Since McClean owned both the coal and rail companies, the canal was hardly used between 1857 and 1861, but then McClean gave up his lease on the railway company and canal sales increased to about one third of the company’s output.The end of the Colliery line at Anglesey Sidings.  Cannock Chase loco No.6, a Sharp Stewart 0-6-0ST  2643/1876.  This picture, taken 21/7/1936 also shows Hammerwich Church in the background and the signal box on the Lichfield to Walsall line.

My Brownhills

We’ve recently been loaned a collection of old photographs of the Brownhills district by Laurence Hodgkinson.  They are mainly based on the mineral railway around Chasewater but the first one especially brought back a lot of memories of the late 1940s and early 1950s.I don’t suppose that there are too many people reading this who have much idea where this was taken, but if you put a Canoe Centre on the left-hand side, it becomes obvious.It was the two Brownhills basins of the Wyrley and Essington Canal.  It was in the right hand basin that my friends and I first started fishing, catching, on a good day, small roach and perch and even smaller gudgeon.

We usually left the other basin to a more experienced angler – Mr. Bickley.  He used a spot about two thirds of the way towards the main canal and usually caught similar fish to us, though perhaps more of them. He always had time for a chat, and considering that we were just bits of kids, we had a great deal of respect for him.  Then one day it happened – Mr. Bickley caught a tench – not a monster as far as tench go but for our small basins it definitely had the X factor.  Of course, after this, our respect for him knew no bounds – he was our hero.

The view today follows:

To get to our fishing spot and general play area of our childhood we would walk to the left of the Regent Cinema, past the back of it – hence our name for the area ‘the back o’ the flicks’ also known as ‘the batters’ – across the brook and up onto ‘our’ field.  This was our football pitch, cricket pitch, a very unsuccessful tennis court and cycle speedway track.The whole area had been our cowboys and indians and hide and seek territory before sport took over our lives.  To get to the canal basins we would walk over ‘our’ field through the fallen railway fence and across the track.Occasionally there would be a rake of empty coal wagons in the siding, and that did make it difficult to get to the basins to fish.  We seldom travelled light so we had to get rods, nets and baskets under the couplings – not so easy, but we were young enough to bend in those days.

Originally, there were four sidings at the basins, but that was before even our time. There was just the one line remaining, to the left of the original photo.All the years we played there, I don’t recall ever seeing an engine in the siding.  They must have paid a visit from time to time, to collect or deliver the wagons – obviously while we were at school!