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
‘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
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.