The aim of this site is to collect information in the form of History- Personal Stories- Photographs- Maps to tell the next generation THE WAY WE WERE
Micheal Priest email@example.com
Congratulations to Harry and Lilian Bamford originally from Winson Green
on their 65th wedding anniversary below a cutting from the Birmingham Mail 11/01/10.
If you know them send a message via the web site.
Note; St CHRYSOSTOMS Church (spelt Chrysanthemum by the reporter)
To Harry Bamford & Wife Congratulation on their longevity of married life,and never forgeting their years living in our Neighbourhood,and remembering one "H" pals and schoolmate Harry Westwood.the area of younger years will always be a part of ones memories,as this no longer exists, being completly removed from the face of the earth.to prove ever of its existance. Be of Good Health & Happiness.
Reminiscence of "H" Harry Bamford first living in Talbot Street and he playing football at the Black Patch Park with local lads from Merry Hill Ted Payne Horace Davis Tommy Dolphin Brookes Bros and many more from our area,in his age group my elder Brother Major Mills and the Aston Bros,Johnny Hall,Bert Field,Tommy Bluck,Tommy Sadler.Freddie Powell, were all early Conscripted into the Services in 1939-45 conflict all only 18-19 year lads for many first time leaving their homes. After the war years,I remember H getting married and moving to live in Harding Street into Housefacing Don Street a few doors away from the local shop that sold everything Mrs Flartys. Faggot & Peas every Friday Night,take your own Basin.and put it on tick till you could pay,&a little extra.The good old days of families struggling in adversity but tried to help each other.
Colin Mills Don Street
FROM COLIN MILLS 05/07/09
On reading a section of Teds Web Page reincarnated memories of days of ones youth and paths that crossed,and a word or mention of a place or a name brings back happier times of Families.
Below is an exchange of E-Mails with a former School Boy that attend Handsworth New Road School named John Bird and served his country for 22+ years in militaty service from 1945-1969 for this alone brings pride to the area of winson green.he was inquiring if anyone could remember him.or his next door neighbour John
Jones,I attend school with John and play football with him at Black Patch Park,He explained that he lived in Eve Road,thia awakend momories of my grandmother that lived in the road also for period of her life name was
Trueman,this he recalled and my aunties Kitty & Rose, he never returned to our area,he relocated to another part of UK.in our exchange of memories he mentioned Bishop Latimer Church and going dancing in congregational hall,this rekindled the Church Army Lads Brigade a very smart Unit of local lads that lived near. Ivor Rolls & Louis Marks + Don Hearn of Willies Road.and himself were members. In the roads Preston, Markby. Willies the top halfmost Boys joined the 39th Boys Brigade, in Winson Green road & Villiers St,
the lower half attend the 14th Boys Brigade Lodge Road Institute these units made boys into Men,being proud to be involved.a great Organization. I hope that when searching for former friends and families, you engage into exchanging stories of years ago, because they are a section of history and heritage that Built our area of Winson Green.should be told.
Best Wishes to All Colin Mills. firstname.lastname@example.org
Are There Romany Connections in Our Family? 03/01/09
We have a family tradition that our ancestors on my maternal Grandparents side were of Romany stock, but as I’ve been researching our family history for a number of years now and haven’t found any suggestion of this I’m beginning to wonder how true the story is.
Oddly enough though I haven’t been able to find a marriage certificate for my Great-great-grandparents, George Fowles and Caroline Pountney and have always wondered if this isn’t where the Romany link is to be found. George Fowles was born in Powick, Worcestershire in 1844 and Caroline Pountney in Lee Bank, Edgbaston a year later. I’ve found them on the census living in the All Saints area and their eldest child, Clara Eliza my Great Gran, was born in July 1867 in Wharf Lane, which lay off Park Road, between Norton Street and Abbey Street. Clara Eliza eventually married Joseph David Hill from Wattville Street, Handsworth and they set up home together living at the back of 228 Winson Green Road.
Sometime between March 1893 and February 1895 the family then moved to 28 Perrott Street where Clara, Thomas and Caroline were born in 1895, 1896 and 1898 respectively. By the time my Great-grandparent’s sixth child Annie Colenso was born, (1900) the family had moved again and were living at 19 Devonshire Street.
My Great-Granddad Joseph David Hill was a Core Maker & Iron Moulder, who I believe worked at the Malleable Iron Foundry at the junction of Victoria Street, Wellington Street and Foundry Road. Clara Eliza, (my Great-Gran) worked as a seamstress at the City Lunatic Asylum and also found work at Winson Green Prison and the Workhouse too.
They were well acquainted with the Romany encampment at The Black Patch then and I wonder if the story of the family coming from Romany stock wasn’t an attempt to divert attention from the fact that Clara Eliza’s mother was the illegitimate daughter of a mentally ill woman, Caroline Pountney. (It gets rather confusing here as both mother and daughter were named Caroline.)
William Pountney, Clara Eliza’s Great-Great Grandfather was a tailor by trade and lived and worked in Kidderminster until he met his wife Alice and settled in Aston in 1793.
William and Alice had nine children that I know of, the youngest of which, Caroline, was born in the parish of Saint Martin’s where she was christened on April 6th 1819.
According to the 1841 Census Caroline was living with Alice her Mother in Lea Bank Road, Edgbaston, where Alice was working for 75 year old Jonathan Perkin as a house keeper. But on the 1851 Census, we find that Caroline and Alice, were listed as being "On Relief," which presumably means Poor Relief. This was provided by Corporation after 1835 to all those unable to look after themselves, due to disability, or infirmity and was generally paid in Workhouse Tokens, which could be spent at certain shops to buy bread and other basic commodities. The shopkeeper could then redeem the tokens at the workhouse.
This suggests then that Caroline & her Mother, Alice, were both unable to work because of some physical or mental disability. Even if Alice, due to her advancing years was incapable of caring for herself, her daughter Caroline would still have been expected to provide some sort of income which again suggests then that they were both infirm.
This is confirmed by the 1861 Census we find the younger Caroline living with her brother Thomas Pountney at Fordrough Street, Birmingham and under the heading of Rank, Profession, or Occupation for Caroline, we find the word "Idiot."
This seems to fit in well with what I already suspected and suggests that Caroline was mentally disabled in some way, but when we bear in mind that she had a child when she was about 25, it makes one wonder what sort of mental disability she had and what sort of man would take advantage of such an obviously vulnerable person.
Caroline’s illegitimate child, my Great-great-grandmother also named Caroline was born in 1845 in Lee Bank and I've found her on the 1861 Census age 15 and living as a border at 86 Ten Acres, Northfield, where she worked as a Dressmaker and Laundress. Caroline married George Fowles about 1865, but as I mentioned above, there is no record of their marriage to be found anywhere.
So the family story that the Fowles and Pountney family’s were of gypsy stock might possibly be just that and an attempt to hide Clara’s Family background. That might also explain why Caroline and George’s marriage and Caroline’s death wasn’t registered.
A couple of years ago, and through your website, I was fortunate enough to make contact with my Mom’s cousin Ray Norton, who sadly passed away in July this year. Ray posted stories on your site and that’s how I made contact with him. He introduced me to his sister Joy, who still has an example of my Great-great-grandmother Caroline’s work. Joy was kind enough to show me a beautiful tunic Caroline had made for her daughter Clara Eliza, (my Great-grandmother). The quality of her work is absolutely stunning and her skills were undoubtedly passed on from William Pountney, Clara Eliza’s Great-Great Grandfather.
Interestingly the Norton’s also have this story in the family about our ancestors being Romany’s and I’d love to know if there’s any truth in it.
I know it’s a long shot, but I would be most grateful if any of your readers could throw any light on this for me please, or have any ideas? Steve & Margaret Jones email@example.com
MEMORIES of POLLIE CHEW nee GREASLEY 1918-2006
My mom, Pollie Chew (nee Greasley), was born at 48 Foundry Road, Winson Green on 23rd February 1918 and lived there until she married my dad, Jarvis Chew (known as Jos) in July 1939. They lived at 7/43 Lodge Road (where my sister Barbara and I were born) until 1968 when we moved to Aston. She had a phenomenal memory and wrote these notes around 1993 when in her seventies. She finally moved to Shirley about 1998 where she lived until her death in 2006. TONY CHEW 31/12/08
Pollie Greasley Age 4 to 14 The first thing I really remember is going to the park with my brother and he shut my finger in the gate. The result was one deformed finger for the rest of my life.
I was born in Foundry Road, Winson Green, Birmingham, the seventh child in a family which finally came up to ten children. My father, Henry Greasley, was a brass polisher and women in those days didn’t go to work but my mother, Amy, went out and did a bit of cleaning. My older brothers and sisters seemed almost like another family as I gravitated towards the younger ones.
We used to go to a little Wesleyan Chapel opposite the Black Patch park where we went to the Band of Hope on Tuesday nights and the Sons of Temperance on Thursday nights. I won a book, Alice in Wonderland, at the Sunday School when I was 4 years old, for learning and reciting a poem.
In our house we had a front room leading on to the street, a kitchen and a back kitchen. Now you would call them the lounge, sitting room and kitchen. We had coal fires in the downstairs rooms and in the front bedroom. For lighting, we had gas. We were forever breaking the mantles. Upstairs there was only gas in the front bedroom so we had to take candles into the other two rooms. The boys had to come through our bedroom to get to their back bedroom. We had two double beds in our room and, before the older girls got married, we had to sleep three in a bed – two at the top and one at the bottom. Three boys slept in a double bed in the back room. All the younger ones had to be in bed by 6.30 to 7 o’clock and all the older ones had to be in by 10 o’clock. Of course, sometimes they were late and my father used to get mad. Anyway, that is the household where I spent my childhood.
When I started school at 5 years old, I thought it was great until the teacher taught us our tables, day in and day out, until we could recite them without thinking. Half the trouble today is because they don’t start teaching children at an early age when they are most receptive. There were no school dinners, except for the children of widows whose mothers had to go out to work, and the very destitute children.
So our mother used to cook us a stew and if she was hard up at the end of the week, she would do a saucepan of boiled rice. We didn’t care because we were always hungry.
I don’t remember much of the next two years as one day rolled into the next but when I was seven, they moved us out of the infants school up to the primary school. I was amongst the first people who had to change schools at eleven years old; before that everyone stayed until they were fourteen when they left school.
One thing that stands out in my memory was Empire Day. The children were dressed in the costumes of all the countries in the Empire and one girl was picked out for Britannia. We were in class one day when we were marched outside to see the R101 flying across the sky – it was the first time we had seen an airship.
Every Monday was washday. My dad and one of my brothers had to light a fire under the boiler in the kitchen. Mother very often kept one of us at home to help her. The whites were put in the maiding tub and punched up and down in soapy suds with an old fashioned maid. Then put through an old fashioned wringer before being put in the boiler to have a good boil. The coloureds were then put in the tub and had to have a good maid. Overalls and dirty things were left until last. When the whites were ready to come out of the boiler, the maiding tub had been filled with the blue water (Reckitts Blue) and given another good maiding before being wrung and hung out to dry. For the ironing, we used a blanket on the kitchen table and two flat irons. While we used one, the other was kept on the gas ring so that we had a hot iron all the time.
When I was a child, once a year the illuminated tram went over the Lodge Road route. We lived by the terminus so we always had a good view. When it got to the terminus, they used to have a raffle. Once, my mother won a ring. She took it to Bartons the pawnshop up our street and he gave her about £6.10 shillings for it, which was a lot of money in those days.
In our childhood we never went away on holiday. The farthest we got was Edgbaston Reservoir. Each Bank Holiday Monday we took a bottle of tea and sandwiches. We started out at about 9 o’clock in the morning and went home about 6 o’clock. It cost us a penny to get in and we fished for tiddlers and paddled at the edge of the water, which was forbidden, actually. One year a photographer took our photo, sucking a lollipop and it was in the paper. We looked a right shower.
When I was nearly eleven years old, I took the exam for George Dixon’s Grammar School and I passed. In those days, those who didn’t pass could go as paying pupils and everybody had to buy their own books. I won a grant to help pay for my books but we were so poor my mother couldn’t even afford my uniform, although she had told the headmaster that I could go. It was so ironical that my friend failed the exam but her mother was so keen for her to go that she paid for her and there was I passed and couldn’t go. The girl’s father was the only man in our street who owned a car and they also had a phone, which was a real luxury in those days. She was a nice girl, though, who was very friendly. Anyway you can guess what sort of car her dad owned. Yes you are right, it was a black Ford.
Every Saturday morning I would go to the coal wharf to fetch 1cwt of coal in a barrow. We would watch the men unloading it off the barge. They weighed it on big scoop scales and tipped it in the barrows. They charged us 3d on the barrow. When we took it back we used to put a sheet of paper in the bottom and sit the baby of the family in it for a ride.
I used to run a lot of errands for our neighbours and hide the money they gave to me in my shoe so that my mother wouldn’t take it off me. On a Saturday afternoon we used to go to the pictures; it cost 2d and the noise was horrendous. Every Christmas dad got tickets for us to go to the British Legion party. We had to walk to Handsworth New Road school and from there to the picture house before going back to the school for tea and a present. Just before one Christmas, mom had gone to the pictures and dad was supposed to be looking after us but had put us all to bed. We heard someone at the front door and dad called me downstairs. One of the churches had sent us a sackful of toys for Christmas. There was everything – dolls, books, games and toys. I was thrilled but when Christmas came, we didn’t get many of them. He had given a lot to his pub mates, in return for a pint I suppose. Our mother never bothered getting us anything for Christmas. It was our older sister Laura who looked after us and bought us clothes when we needed them.
While I was still at Primary School, I was about 9 or 10 I suppose, I had to take my dad’s dinner to him every dinner-time. I had to walk all the Winson Green Road and then get the tram at the bottom of Icknield Port Road to Monument Road. He worked in Mary Street off Monument Road so I didn’t have much time to get my own dinner and get back to school. Once I went to Handsworth New Road School I didn’t have to do that so he must have started taking sandwiches. After I started Handsworth New Road School, it seemed a different life. For one thing we all had to wear a gymslip and white blouse which luckily I already had. The teachers made spot checks to see if you had polished your shoes and had a clean neck etc. One morning I hadn’t cleaned my shoes so I had to go in the afternoon and show her that I had. We had to go to Grove Lane School every Monday for cookery. It was half an hour to walk there and half an hour back and we did it every dinner-time too. Nobody went by bus. When I had been there two years I was picked for the choir but I couldn’t go to the practices because there were always errands to run and babies to mind so I dropped out of that.
Once my friend asked me if I would be a bearer for a little boy who had died in Perrott Street. She lent me a navy mac but I wasn’t very keen. In those days all the funerals were horse drawn. The hearses were all glass so that people could see the flowers. There were four of us girls and we had to hold white ribbons that were threaded under the coffin. We traveled in a horse drawn carriage and if you think that’s great, then you are very much mistaken. The carriage swayed and bumped and I was very frightened that the horses would slip because it was Winter. When we got to the Cemetery, we had to wrap the ribbons round our hands. You could feel them slipping. All in all it was a nasty experience. Never again. The funny thing was that we had to change our clothes afterwards and go to the school’s Christmas party.
When I was thirteen we started housewifery in Summerfield Crescent – more walking. One of our teachers called me one day and said she was altering a coat and dress of her own for me to have when I left school. Alas, like many things I had been promised in my life, I never got it. But I did get a prize for being the only one to get 10 out of 10 for mental arithmetic in the whole school (big head).
When I was fourteen I left school and started work on the Monday in a plating shop. We got 10 shillings a week. We worked 8 o’clock until 6 o’clock every day and 8 o’clock until 12 o’clock on Saturday mornings. When I had been there about 2 months I got the sack because the work went short. I didn’t like that and I swore that I wouldn’t let anyone sack me again, and I never did. I always left of my own accord.
I seem to have remembered most of the best of my childhood but really we had some rotten times - but isn’t it funny how you remember the good times best? Age 14 to 21
When I started my next job it was with the help of one of my school friends. It was at Homers on Spring Hill. Just a little family firm. Mr Homer (the boss), his son and brother-in-law, Leah Pell and myself made up the work force. Now Mr Homer’s brother kept the pub (the Railway Inn) by us so he knew my parents – not that that was much help. I did a bit of everything there, polishing, scratchbrushing, laying the work out ready for spraying, wrapping up and packing. After a while he took two more men and one woman on. The factory ran alongside the canal and there was usually a barge moored there. One dinner-time, Leah said “ Let’s have our sandwiches on the boat”. We were there when the two men jumped on and somebody pushed the boat out. When the boss came back and found us in the middle of the canal, all hell was let loose. At that time I was only 14 and a few weeks old. He said next time he went down to the Railway he would tell my mother but he never did. One Friday he called me to his office and said “I’ve put an extra 2/6 in your wage packet but I haven’t sealed it so it is up to you whether you have it yourself or give it to your mother”. Anyway I kept it myself and then sealed the envelope up. You always had to give your mother the pay packet unopened and she gave you 1/- back as pocket money. I couldn’t think what to do with the 2/6 extra so me and Leah used to call in the fish shop every night for a penny fish and a pennyworth of chips on a plate. I told our Laura, though, and she laughed. Then I started to have a lot of sore throats and our Laura was worried about me because mom still sent me to work. So she asked a friend of hers, Tommy Hopton, to try and get me a job at the toy factory where he was a foreman. So I started another job.
I was fifteen by this time and it was then that I first met my sister-in-law, Win. It was home from home at the toy factory. I palled up with a girl from Lees Street and we used to go to the pictures and on outings together. This was a typical day in my life then. I got up at 6.30 to 7.00, Christmas we worked ‘till 8 0’clock on a job called Tinkle Chimes. We did all the frames and assembling during the day and in the overtime we put in all the bells and finished them off. Every one we finished we got a ha’penny which was put in a pool for Christmas.
One day my sister Frances came to meet me and Mr Hussey was bringing some parcels out of his case. He asked her to help him, which she did, and he gave her a job (just like that). When we worked over, I used to go out and get boiled ham and cobs for the girls and one day our Win asked me to go to her house to ask her mother to send her 2 pieces of bread and dripping. So I met the woman who was eventually to become my mother-in-law. Our Win used to take me to the pictures; if you weren’t 18 years old you always had to have an adult with you so she would take me. By then they had moved to a bigger house and she used to take me home for a cup of tea. That was the first time I saw her brother who became my husband. Mind you that was a few years later.
Our factory moved to Western Road in bigger premises but they took all of us workers with them. We were there quite a time but the work started to go slack so I thought it was time to make a move. Our Frances came with me and we got a job in the press shop at Howletts on Hockley Hill. We had some good times there. Mind you we worked hard but we had a smashing foreman named Kent Harrison. He was an elderly man but very fair.
I think I must have been about 18 by then and the wage was 25/- a week. Out of that I gave my mom £1 and bought my own clothes; how I did it I don’t know. We joined a Perm Club at 6d a week and the perm was 5/-. They rolled your hair on rollers and then you were attached to this contraption which was then switched on. As it got hotter, you could hear the hair sizzling. We did have one or two burns. When they took out the curlers, you had little corkscrew curls all over your head, then they washed and set it in waves and curls. When we washed it ourselves, a girl at work used to take us down to the toilets – there with a cup of water and a comb she would reset it for us. We also had a scent club; we paid 6d a week on that and went to Snapes on Hockley Hill. That meant we could buy 4711 perfume instead of Californian Poppy. It also kept us in Phul Nana face powder. I used to buy camphorated chalk to clean my teeth – it really kept them nice and white. I had a good friend there named Emma and one day she came to me and said “Jos says will you go to the pictures with him tonight”? I laughed and said “Don’t be so daft”. But he was persistent and every day sent a block of Cadbury’s chocolate via Emma. Emma and I used to sit and eat it but I still didn’t want to go out with him. It was ages before I did and we went to the Gaumont cinema. Emma also started courting and Jos and I were witnesses at her wedding.
Then Howletts went on a three-day week so I decided it was time to get out. Frances and I went to a factory at the bottom of Warstone Lane, Aide & Nephews, where they made cycle components. By this time, I was getting on being twenty years old and we decided to get engaged on my twenty first birthday.
At home my three eldest sisters and my eldest brother were married. Amy had three children, our Laura had one child and our Sonny had one child. She was the most beautiful baby but when she passed her first birthday, her brain didn’t develop and she was found to be a spastic child.
At work we were put on piecework which wasn’t a very good experience especially when some jobs were a penny farthing a gross. We really had to work to get our money but we had some lovely girls working with us. Jos and I decided we would get married when I was 21. So we fixed the date, July 22nd. During that time I went to a dress shop called Ray Morris and I went and paid some money every week until I got married. All in all, I bought my wedding dress, three grown-up bridesmaids’ dresses, two child’s dresses, muffs and headdresses. My mother never helped us with anything and I was determined to have a nice wedding. The grown-up bridesmaids were in a deep mauve and the children were in pink. When we ordered our cake, it was only a two-tier; they did it in mauve and pink to match the bridesmaids dresses. All this time the talk was of nothing but Hitler and war. We saw Neville Chamberlain on the newsreels at the cinema, saying that there would be no war because he had signed a treaty. Dad didn’t like Chamberlain. Every time Hitler invaded another country, all the people kept saying “Why don’t they do something”?
Well, we got married and settled in our little house and in the September my mother-in-law was 50. She had never had a birthday cake so we had one made for her where they had made our wedding cake and we had a little family party. The next day, WAR was declared. It was only the older people who were worried. After all, they had lived through a war and knew its implications but I’m afraid that my generation was more excited and said “let’s get on with it and get shot of Hitler”. Alas, it wasn’t going to be that easy as we found out to our cost. Some of the silly things that happened during my younger years
Frances and I were making mom’s bed. It had a wooden top and bottom with a spring. To hold the spring were iron lathers to connect the top and bottom of the bed. Well Frances and I stripped the bed and pushed the wooden head to move the bed. As we did so, one of the wooden lathers just snapped in two. We were petrified. Of course now we would know that there must have been a fault in the metal but we were only kids. So we fixed it together and made the bed up ready for our mom and dad to go to bed. We were in bed when they came upstairs and we were lying there holding our breaths. Dad got into bed alright but when mom got in –WHAM – the bed collapsed. My brother came up the stairs to see what was the matter. It was bedlam (pardon the pun). Anyway he found a clamp and clamped the two pieces together and it lasted ‘til mom didn’t need to use it anymore. Fran and I never said a word.
My sister Laura was bringing her new boyfriend (Tom) home. Now in the living room, mom had her old-fashioned wringer, covered with a curtain. That was so she didn’t have to go outside in the rain to wring the washing. Well, our Laura had made the house look all nice and tidy. Then she looked at the wringer. Mom and dad were out so she said “Right, kids, come and give me a hand and we’ll put the wringer outside”. Well, to get it outside we had to take it out of the front door, up the street, round Eva Road and down the back yard. So there we were, our Laura and us kids pushing the old wringer. Whatever the neighbours thought we’ll never know. I only know that mom and dad raised the roof when they came home but the wringer stayed outside.
A man in Perrott Street made a living by hiring out bikes for 3d an hour. Our dad was dead against us kids hiring one as they had no normal brakes. You had to back pedal to stop them. Well, our Marion hired one but we lived on a hilly street and she came down the street but forgot how to stop. She went straight over the grass at the bottom of the street and ended up on the bank of the railway. Dad was fetched out of the pub opposite and really did his nut. Luckily she was only shaken up.
During the war we had to queue for most things and one day our Mal and I were in a queue when two young women came by who were pregnant. A middle-aged woman in front of us said to her companion, “look at them, they as good as tell you what they’ve been up to”. Well, I was mad because these two young women’s husbands could have been away fighting. So I said to the woman “Have you got any children”?. She said “Yes, I have and they’re grown up”. So I said “Well, you must have been up to it as well”. Our Mal couldn’t wait to get served and away from them. Mind you, we had a good laugh afterwards. She called me a cheeky so and so. Some of the Remedies of Our Childhood.
Every baby had to be vaccinated against smallpox. It was the law. When my mother had me vaccinated, there was something wrong with the vaccine and I had vaccination pox. They told me in later years that I was covered in vaccination sores all down the left side of my body and had to go to hospital and be carried about on a pillow. Everyone of our generation had five vaccination marks. Every Spring our mother used to make brimstone and treacle. That was sulphur and black treacle mixed into a paste. This was doled out by the teaspoon. We also had to tuck into sulphur tablets. These things were supposed to purify the blood. Nobody took tablets like they do today. Bread poultices and linseed poultices were applied to any festers or inflammations. These poultices were applied to the affected parts while they were very hot and I’m sure they scalded us. My brother had a carbuncle on his neck and my mother filled a bottle with near boiling water and held it on the carbuncle ‘til it burst. My brother was in agony. They couldn’t afford to take us to the doctor because you had to pay. If it was something our mother couldn’t cope with, our dad had to get a dispensary note from work. We had to go to Burberry Street in Lozells for the Dispensary. Once mom had to fetch the doctor to me. This was a big upset in our house as we didn’t have doctors in the home unless it was absolutely necessary. Colds meant nothing in our house, it was a case of ‘they’ve come and they’ll go’. When my father had been on the beer on Saturday night, we always had to fetch him a Seidlitz powder on Sunday morning to clear his head. Stotherts must have done a roaring trade with these old people because everything they bought was made by them. The grocers used to have their products hanging up on cards. They sold corn paste, Little Liver Pills, etc which only cost a few pence. They used to buy Beechams Pills for constipation. There were about 3-4 pills in a little twist of paper for 1d. When one of my babies had a colicky stomach, my mother got a cup of water into which she dropped a red-hot cinder from the fire. Then she poured the water into another cup, added a bit of sugar and gave it to the baby who lapped it up. They used to call it cinder water. I suppose it was a forerunner of Gripe Water. In cold weather, the grown ups-used to buy a pint of beer, pour it into a glass, hold the poker in the fire ‘til it was red hot and plunge it into the beer. Apparently it cured stomach pains. I never knew because for some reason I hated the taste of beer. When a baby was born, they used a binder to bind the umbilical cord. It was like a wide (about 4 inches) bandage which was wrapped around the baby’s tummy. Every day it was taken off and talcum powder was put on a dressing round the cord and the baby was bound up again. This binder was used until the cord dropped off. The midwife always made sure you had your binders when she visited you before the birth. You always had to have a bottle of Dettol too. In my later years I always associated the smell of Dettol with confinements. That was an old-fashioned name for giving birth.
At Christmas, when anyone had a goose, they gave mom the goose fat. If one of the children had a cough, she used to get a sheet of brown paper and smother it with goose fat and put it on their chests under their vests – it smelled horrible.
It is funny how things come back into your mind when you start writing these things down. For instance, as children we very rarely had fresh milk – it was always Handy Brand Condensed Milk. Maybe that is why my son loves it so much. He must have inherited from me. When we did have fresh milk, the milkman used to bring a churn to your door with measures (1 gill, ½ pint and 1 pint). These were hanging on the side of the churn. I don’t think my mother ever bought more than ½ pint. We didn’t have sliced bread either. I must have been well into my teens before I saw a sliced loaf. Dad didn’t like the new sliced bread.
Another thing we didn’t have was shampoo. We used to go to the Hockley Chem. (Hockley Chemical Company, Great Hampton Street) and buy 3d worth of green soft soap to wash our hair. We used to have a man come round the streets with a roundabout on the back of a lorry. We could have a free ride if we gave a stone jam jar. Actually jam was sold out of a big stone jar into your own jars. They weighed the jar on the scales then put the jam in to weigh your pound of jam. We also had people who came round two or three times a year selling salt. It came in large blocks which we kids used to break up and put into boxes or jars. It lasted for ages. We also had a man who came round selling fresh fish. He always had large lumps of ice around the fish. We kids used to hang around until he gave us a piece of ice. It must have been very unhygienic but to us it was a treat. Then there was the man who came round with a grindstone fitted on a frame something like a bicycle which he pedalled to sharpen your knives and scissors. The Games We Played.
We didn’t see much traffic in Eva Road so we used our mothers’ clothes lines and held them right across the road as skipping ropes. Everybody joined in, even some of the grown-ups.
Then there were whips and tops, tip cat (a short pointed stick hit with a larger stick), which was a menace to the windows, flicking cigarette cards, marbles, jack stones indoor games like snakes and ladders, ludo, cards and dice games, which all cost 6d each at Woolworths. At one time, Woolworths never sold anything for more than 6d so if you bought a pair of pumps, you paid 6d for each pump. It was called the 3d and 6d store. My late sister had some glass sweet dishes for which she paid 6d for the dish and 6d for the handle. I saw some in an Antique fair priced £6.50 so it paid to keep these things. Now For The War Years.
In the first year we had our first baby. Unfortunately she died at 10 months old – it was the worst thing that had ever happened to us.
One night we were sitting by the fire and the baby was asleep in the little pantry in her pram. We couldn’t put her to bed as the sirens had gone. Suddenly there was a loud bang, a rush of wind and all our windows were blown in. I think we were both terrified, although Jos would never show it. So we grabbed the baby and ran down to my Mother-in-Law’s to go down her shelter but we’d hardly got there when the police ordered us all out. There was also an unexploded bomb in the Conservative Club almost opposite our house. Jos went up home to get some things and his mom and our Evelyn and the two boys (Jos’ sister and brothers) started off for my mothers. Jos had his best suit over his arm and I said “Where’s the pram?” but he hadn’t thought about that. When we got to Scribbans (a bakery on the corner of Goode Street and Lodge Road), one of the men went to go back. A policeman said “Where are you going, mate?” and the man said “I’m going to get my best brown boots”. The policeman said “If that bloody thing in there goes off mate, you’ll have no feet to put you boots on”. Well, we stayed at mom’s for the night and made our way home the next morning. We still couldn’t go back home as the bomb squad was still working on the land mine. Sometime in the afternoon we got the ‘all clear’ and my sister Mal came home with me. Somehow, Jos had got to work. You never saw such a mess as we had when we got in. There was glass everywhere, all over the living room. It took ages to clear up. They couldn’t put new glass in the windows so they put a sort of whitish grey cloth in as a temporary measure. After that, we brought our bed downstairs.
Our Fran had her son, Bobby, and, as dad had turned her husband out, she had to find a job and I was at sixes and sevens after losing our baby so we decided to work in a munitions factory. We made the shell cases for the pom-pom guns on the ships. Fran did very well and learned to use a micrometer. At least I think that’s what it was. Anyway, she had to measure everything to a thousandth of an inch. I wasn’t really bothered what I did as I didn’t have to rely on my wages so I went on a marking machine. This was at Earle and Bourne. The power presses were manned by three women. They were huge, 500 tons. The shell cases started out as a round slab of brass so you can imagine how many processes they went through before they were sent out as shell cases about 12 to 18 inches long.
Of course, we never knew when the sirens would go and we’d be sent down the air raid shelter. One of the houses in our terrace went empty so they set it up as an Air Raid Centre with wardens, First Aid, Stirrup Pumps etc., all manned by volunteers.
My mother-in-law had an Anderson shelter in her garden with beds made up for the two youngest boys. Everyone else took pot-luck. I remember standing at the bottom of the entry one night with my sister-in-law, watching the strings of lights dropping from the German planes. They were like fireworks. What we didn’t realise was that the bombs followed the lights.
After I’d been at work for a few weeks, I had to go to the doctors as I wasn’t well and he advised me to have another baby. He said that if I didn’t, I would get very bitter and probably go all my life without children. So we went and had another baby.
By the way, in all this time, everywhere we went, we had to take our gasmasks and identity cards. The police could stop you any time and ask to see your identity card. We had ration books for food and books of clothing coupons. Children had green ration books and were allowed a little extra butter. One Christmas I hadn’t got many meat coupons but our butcher found me a little loin of pork – it was 2/11d in old money. Sugar was sold in one pound and half pound bags, it was very precious. There was a lot of Spam on sale but it wasn’t very popular in our house. Neither was the dried egg – of course, if we had nothing else, we had to eat it.
I was very lucky to have a good coalman. I used to buy 2 cwt of coal every week and it cost about 3/-. Then, in August, I had a ton of coal put down my cellar and paid the coalman 5/- per week on it. This was in the first years of the war of course because, as the war went on and on, coal itself was in short supply. Then we bought bags of logs off a man who came round with a cart. We still had gas lighting in our houses and we had a penny meter. As Barbara got older, she used to watch fascinated as the gasman piled the pennies up when he emptied the meter. We always seemed to have some back for her to play with.
Spencers on the ‘Flat’ (the bottom of Lodge Road full of shops) used to have eggs occasionally and word would go round. We dropped whatever we were doing to get in the queue. Sometimes the queue stretched right into Heaton Street. All that for four eggs. We were lucky that we lived right by the ‘Flat’ because sometimes we could get a few apples etc.
The little children got their fresh orange juice and cod liver oil at the Welfare Centre. It cost 5d a bottle.
We used all sorts of things to make curtains as we couldn’t spare the coupons to buy them. With getting married just before the war, I was stocked with bed clothes, towels and crockery which came in very handy. Before we got married, we went to Handsworth Market and bought a tea chest of crockery. It was in white with a green and gold band. It comprised a dinner set complete with 3 vegetable dishes, half a tea set, a coffee set, supper set, tea pot, egg cups, jugs etc. In fact, every piece of crockery you could mention, including a fruit set - and it cost us £5. By the end of the war it was very depleted, still we had our money’s worth out of it.
Every night we used to put out a bag with insurance policies, rent books, any spare cash, birth certificates, marriage lines etc., in fact anything important, so that if there was an air raid, we had everything to hand.
A very young soldier came one day to see his sister who was living next door to us and he was going abroad the next day. He was killed that same week, at Dunkirk. Every day you heard of someone being killed. Of course, with my brother-in-law in El Alamein and my youngest brother a sailor, they were very worrying days.
Then the bombers seemed to be not coming over so much so we started to try and get back to normal. We had glass in our windows again but the blackout was still in force. You couldn’t show even a splash of light from your windows. The wardens used to come and bang on your doors. It was terrible to go out at night with no street lights. We used to take shaded torches with us. Funnily enough we were never afraid of being mugged.
My husband’s friend from boyhood was killed in South Africa about this time. The worst thing was, he wasn’t killed fighting but was hit by a crane in an accident. He was the only son. I was in our little garden when the telegram came to tell his mother. Good job there were some of the old neighbours still alive because they went to her house to help her.
We only heard any news on our wireless (nobody had a television) or on the Pathe News at the cinema. Our wireless had an accumulator which had to be charged every week. We kept two of them so that one was on charge while we used the other. We used to take them to the radio shop to be charged. We heard all about Dunkirk and D Day on our radio.
I used to have some lonely nights when my husband was on fire watch. He had to stay on the roof at Howletts and when there was a raid on, they had to be on the alert for incendiary bombs which could soon start a big fire. It was amazing how everyone adapted to this sort of life but we did. Even the older people like my mother and mother-in-law.
Young women who weren’t married were called for the forces when they were old enough. My sister-in-law was getting near this age (it was 20 or 21, I think). So she decided to get married. Of course, she had no coupons to buy her wedding dress so her sister let her have hers. We all helped her mom to get a meal together so that they could have a bit of a reception and, considering there was a war on, we put quite a good spread on. The only thing was, they had to go into lodgings as there were no houses available. A lot of houses were demolished by the bombs so they were rehoused first.
There were many people killed by using their cellars as air raid shelters and when the houses were hit they were trapped. The land mine that caused our windows to come in was dropped on Ellen Street school and it killed all the people who were sheltering there. The one that didn’t go off was defused and it was the length of a good sized room. We all went and put some money in the empty shell for the bomb disposal people. One week we had an auction sale on the ‘Flat’ for the troops. We all gave something and it all fetched more money than it was worth. During this time we all had our railings taken down because they needed the metal to make guns etc. They also came to the houses to collect any old saucepans or kettles that could be spared. Still it was all in a good cause.
In the parks there were barrage balloons which were manned by the WAAFS. My brother-in-law married one of these girls. The balloons were sent up to prevent enemy aircraft coming in too low.
During the war we had a lot of Scottish and Irish girls sent to Birmingham to work on munitions. They came from out of the way places and some of them had never lived in a big city. Of course they had no choice, they were just drafted in. The Government took over a lot of houses in City road and most of the Scots were billeted in them. The tragedy of it was that a lot of the younger ones got pregnant and had to be sent home. They were so naïve and couldn’t cope with the pressure.
I didn’t go out to work after I had my baby but by then my parents needed a lot of help, so we were kept very busy.
I used to make a lot of my daughter’s clothes and I made her a little dress out of one of her dad’s shirts. She told everybody that she was wearing daddy’s shirt.
Then came the day the war was officially over. We all heard the news on the wireless. My neighbour said “Come on” and she grabbed a dustbin lid and started banging it and collected all the people on the way and marched round the streets shouting and singing. Of course it was ages before the soldiers came home but at least they weren’t fighting. A lot of the Irish and Scottish people settled in Birmingham. They didn’t want to go home. Some of them had married and had families. The street lights were put on and we didn’t have to put the blackout curtains up. But everything was so gradual that we didn’t really take much notice.
When the soldiers came home, they were given a demob suit, shoes etc. and money to tide them over until they settled back at work. It wasn’t only the men and their wives who had to adjust to each other again after the war, it was also the children. My friend was pregnant when her husband went overseas, so when he came home, his daughter was five years old, just started school. Her dad had to take her to school and fetch her home for quite a time until she accepted him and I think this must have happened in homes all over the country. A lot of the men who came back had no jobs to go to so they went on the building sites. You see, the women had found out they could do the jobs the men used to do and they were reluctant to give up their independence and go back to being a housewife and they certainly didn’t fancy being tied to a young family again. The man who lived next door to us was taken prisoner by the Japanese quite early in the war. I don’t think his wife thought he would come home again. She went to live with her mother and started courting again. Well, one day a telegram came so I signed for it and took it to her at her mother’s in Hunters Road. What a shock. Her husband was on his way home and would be there in a week or two. She was pregnant when her husband went away and had a little girl who died when she was two years old. So her dad never saw her. I suppose that’s why he made such a fuss of our little girl.
We still had gas lighting in our houses except my husband’s uncle who had no gas or water in his house. Then all the people in the terrace, except this one man, paid to have electricity installed. It was brought in by cables along the outside wall. It was a great improvement and it meant we could have an electric radio and an electric iron. We only had one power point though and we still had coal fires.
By this time, the first television sets were on sale to the public. They seemed to be all case and hardly any screen which was about 12 inches. We couldn’t afford one but my brother-in-law bought one. I think it was about £80 which was a lot of money. Some people bought an enlarging screen which was fitted over the small screen and made the picture larger.
Now we decided that, as Barbara was 4 years old, we would have another child and we ended up with a son, Tony, who was born on his dad’s 37th birthday. It was January 1947, the worst Winter anyone could remember. The milk was delivered by horse and cart and it was so slippery that the horses couldn’t get up our hill and we had to go down to the’ Flat’ to collect our milk. While I was in bed after having the baby, our little girl had her fifth birthday. Those days when you had a baby, you were kept in bed for ten days and woe betide you if you tried to get up before that. So when I did get up and about, I had to start Barbara at school. There were no nursery schools or mother and baby classes, so your children were always with you until they started school.
There was another thing, you always had to go and be churched. That is, go to a special church service where the vicar thanked God for bringing you safely through. Most people wouldn’t let you go into their houses ‘til you had been churched, it was supposed to be unlucky.
When Barbara started school, I used to get our baby up, change and feed him and put a hot water bottle in his pram so that I could take Barbara to school in Heaton Street for 9 o’clock. The ice and snow was on the ground for weeks. I came home, bathed the baby and got dinner started so that I could fetch her at 12 o’clock. Then back again at 2 o’clock and home again at 3.30pm. Good job we had a contented baby.
Barbara had to go into hospital when the baby was six months old; she was in for a week or more and we weren’t allowed to go and see her. The same thing happened when our baby was about fourteen months old; he had an abcess in his neck. Nowadays they would treat it with antibiotics but then it meant an operation. It was awful not being allowed to see him and it really upset him. He cried more in the first months of coming home than in all the months before he went away. One good thing is that parents are welcome to stay with their children now when they go into hospital.
You children always talk about when we took you on holidays every year and how we managed to pay for them as I wasn’t working. Well, our Laura’s neighbour used to run a money club. You paid 1/d for every ‘chance’ and I used to have five ‘chances’ August to August and five ‘chances’ Christmas to Christmas so that we always had money for holidays and money for Christmas. I used to take the money up to our Laura’s every Saturday. The odd penny a ‘chance’ was for the lady who ran the club. Of course we had to save on our own as well. We had some nice holidays especially at Severn Beach near Bristol. We also went to Blackpool, Rhyl, Abergele and Towyn. We went to these places because it wasn’t too far for the children to travel. We also managed to take our children out on a Saturday night. We used to go to The Hippodrome, The Empire (now gone), The Aston Hippodrome, The Alec (Alexandra Theatre) and, of course, The Gaumont with the organ coming up from the stage in front of the screen. We always went first half. In those days there were always two shows every night. But we went early so that we could take them in for fish and chips on the way home.
At home we also listened to Valentine Dyall on the radio in a mystery called “The Man in Black”. When Barbara was 10 and Tony was 5, I got a job at the toy factory again, 6 ‘til 10 at night. It was from August ‘til Christmas. I had a new fireplace installed paid for out of my wages. We had a great time there and, of course, we got he toys at cost price. When Christmas came they asked us (my sister and I) if we would go as permanent workers. We couldn’t work full time so they let us work the day between us. I worked nine ‘til one and Mal worked two ‘til five thirty. We minded the children between us. I got the worst end of it because I had two children and she had four. We managed like that for quite a few years and the money came in very handy. Anyway, you know yourself what happened from there so you can finish it yourselves.
I just have to tell you this tale:
Tony and Jackie ( Mal’s daughter) were already going to All Saints School. Then Denise (Jackie’s sister) had to start because she was five years old. Her mother had a problem with her on the morning so she said she’d come with us on the afternoon before she went to work. Denise played up all along All Saints Street, she lay on the floor and we had to pick her up and almost carry her. We got her in the classroom and the teacher said “Come on Denise” and Denise shouted “I don’t want to come to your bloody school”. Her mother made a quick exit and left me with her. Her teacher had to fetch our Tony and Jackie into the classroom to stay with her ‘til she calmed down. It took quite a time before she finally settled but over the years she did better at school than any of her sisters. The Day Our Charlie Took Us For A Walk.
One Sunday morning our Charlie (Pollie’s brother) said “ Who’s coming for a walk”? Me and our Frances said yes right away – we would have gone anywhere with him, he was so nice to us kids. He walked us up the Winson Green Road then right to the top of City Road. It was like being in the country to us. Then he said “We’ll go to California” so we walked all the way to where would be Barnes Hill now. Well, I’d be about 11 years old then and our Frances about 9 so by now we were very tired. We’d missed our Sunday dinner so we knew we’d catch out when we got home. Then we had the long walk home as we had no money for bus fares. It was about 6 o’clock when we finally got to the top of our street and mom had got everybody out looking for us. Poor Charlie had a good hiding for taking us and we had to go to bed as soon as we’d had something to eat and drink. Didn’t mind that as we were tired out! Empire Day.
Every year we celebrated Empire Day and children were picked out of every class to take part. The children were dressed in the costumes of the different countries of the Empire; some were Indians, some Irish and some Scottish. One girl was picked to be Britannia and she was dressed in white and carried a trident.
I was in the choir and we had to sing ‘Rule Britannia’. Then I had to sing a verse on my own and I was petrified – I made a mess of it as I was only 10 years old. I wish I had got a photo of it. Holidays.
When the kids were younger, we always tried to take them on holiday for two weeks. Half the fun was looking forward to it. The kids would save some of their pocket money and we bought them new clothes to go in. One year we took them to a boarding house with my sister and her son. We took our cases to the digs and took the children to the beach; within two minutes my nephew went missing. It was tea-time before we found him so we were late for tea. The landlady wasn’t very pleased. Then when the kids went to bed he hid in the wardrobe and his foot went straight through the bottom so we hid the hole with a suitcase!
Then another day, my little girl shouted all across the dining room that she wasn’t going to eat her dinner because it looked like cacky on her plate. It was minced beef and it did look horrible. After that we used to hire a caravan or a chalet.
When the children grew up, my husband and I used to go in boarding houses or hotels to be waited on. Places We Have Seen.
We took the kids to the top of Blackpool Tower.
I walked them over the suspension bridge at Clifton. Their dad was too scared to go with us.
We took them to see Wilfred Pickles at a theatre in Bristol – we took them to every theatre in Birmingham and we took them to see Nellie Wallace and Randolph Sutton in Bearwood.
I took my son and my niece to deliver the morning papers and the mail out to the lightship at Margate. We had to jump onto the lightship from our boat; once again dad didn’t go – proper coward! My Working Life.
When I was 14 years old, I left school and started work. My first job was in a plating shop. We had to dry the work that came out of the plating shop. We were making the boxes for the box curbs. It was messy, smelly and boring. For this I was paid 10 shillings a week. We worked from eight in the morning ‘til five thirty in the evening plus Saturday morning.
Anyway, I was sacked because the work went short. My next job was in Spring Hill; it was a little factory run by a man named Homer. We did all sorts of jobs – polishing, spraying, wiring-up ready for the plating shop. I was still only fourteen and I still only got 10 shillings a week. I left that job because I kept getting sore throats. Then my sister got me a job at a factory which made toys for Chad Valley.
I really liked that job; we made a lot of different toys. There was Blow Football and a lot of tin toys but come August we started on TINKLE CHIMES; these were pull-along toys with multi-coloured wheels which hit bells as they were pulled along. We made the framework in the daytime and then worked ‘til 8 o’clock at night putting all the bells on. For each one we finished, we were given a halfpenny bonus which we saved ‘til Christmas when we shared it. After a few years our factory moved to Western Road and we traded under a different name but we still did toys for Chad Valley. We did teasets, toy stoves, little spades etc. At that time I worked in the spray shop. The stoves were sprayed cream with shiny black doors. One day, when the doors were sprayed and came through the conveyor , they weren’t shiny but were all crinkled. It was a calamity! The bosses came down; they liked the crinkled effect better than the glossy one so they sprayed the stoves white with crinkly doors. All the cream ones were sold to us workers for 2 shillings each. What a bargain!
The work started to go short and we went on a three-day week which was no good for us moneywise so I got another job. This was at Howletts on Hockley Hill; they made components for New World gas fires and cookers. It was a lovely place to work. My sister came to work with me so I had someone to travel back and forth with. We were working on hand presses. There were a lot of Black Country girls working there, they were mostly on piece work. They came to work by train to Hockley Station. They were a nice lot of girls and we had lots of laughs with them. I met my future husband there but once again we went on short time and I got another job. This time I went to a factory in Warstone Lane; these people made cycle accessories. While working there I got married – that was in July (1939) and the war was imminent. The war started and we all thought it would only last a short time – we were so innocent.
In the next year I had a baby but sadly she died when she was ten months old so I went to work on munitions at EARL & BOURNES on the Spring Hill. We made shells for the pom-pom guns; it was hard work as every shell had to be measured on a micrometer. The money was good and the Government brought a lot of girls and women down from Scotland. They took over a lot of houses in City Road and the Scottish people were billeted in them. A lot of these people came from remote places and had never been in a factory and many of them became pregnant.
When Barbara was 10 and Tony was 5 (1952), my sister and I got a part time job at the toy factory. It was 6 ‘til 10 at night. It was only Christmas but afterwards they asked us to go in during the day so my sister and I worked a half a day each. I did mornings and my sister afternoons. We looked after the children between us and this went on for quite a few years. We workers could buy toys at a reduced price and our two kids had a lot of toys they wouldn’t have had normally.
Then the factory moved to the other side of town; it was too far for us to travel and we couldn’t leave the children on their own so we got another job. We went to another job where they let us do a day between us – of course, it helped having my sister’s husband working there. At this job we sprayed door knobs and door fittings; the job wasn’t too hard but the money was very poor. I stayed there for 11 years and one day I asked the boss for a rise and he said I could work more hours. He knew I couldn’t because I had my aged mother living with me so I put my week’s notice in.
I then went to LUCAS and they asked me to go in their school to learn drilling. I went from 1 o’clock ‘til 5 and I got more money than I had been earning. I went into the factory after a fortnight but I didn’t like it; then my mother died so I packed up work and had a few weeks rest.
I then got a job at GRAHAMS in the Jewellery Quarter. They made medals so once again I did press work. The girl I worked with said it was all piece work and some jobs were tenpence a gross but she didn’t tell me you had to do about 6 operations before you got the tenpence. We did a lot of badges which were then enamelled. I loved to see them being finished off. I was there about two years and then the factory closed up. I then got a job at RABONES in Ford Street; it was only round the corner from where I lived. The only snag was that I had to work full time. I was there about a year when we moved house so I left. We came to our flat 25 years ago (1968) and I worked at RADIATION ‘til my husband and I retired. We have been retired nearly 20 years now. My husband worked at Howletts/Radiation for forty eight and a half years and in that time he never signed on the Labour and only had one week off sick. Bonfire Night As A Child.
For weeks before Bonfire Night, u kids collected as much rubbish as we could and our neighbours found us a lot of stuff they didn’t want. We had a big open yard at the back of our house so the bonfire was held there. One year the lady next door to us had bought new mattresses so she gave mom her old ones and our old mattresses made a good base for the fire.
Fireworks were quite cheap and we kids had sparklers which were a halfpenny a packet. The women put potatoes and chestnuts round the edge of the fire and all of us kids were given them – they were scrumptious! The men, of course, had their beer.
It was one bight we were allowed to stay up late. The lads used to throw jumping jacks at the girls and everybody was friendly. Mind you, our neighbours never did argue much and, when I think back, I suppose we were like a little community.
Frances and I Had Dysentery.
Our Frances lay on the settee in the front had to room. They’d made it up like a bed and she was so ill, they had to stay up with her at night. Mom and our Laura and, I suppose, Violet took it in turns. Then on the Holiday Monday, I took the boys out to the reservoir (Edgbaston) and I was taken ill myself and had to be taken home. So our mom bundled me into a pushchair and took me to the Casualty Department at Dudley Road Hospital. They couldn’t keep me in as, being holiday, they said that there were no spare beds but I think they were frightened that I could have infected other patients. The after effects of dysentery seemed to stay with you for a long time and Frances and I were off school for months. A Red Letter Day When I Was 5 Years Old.
Every year we went to Handsworth Park with the Band of Hope. Our house had bought me a pink silk dress from the second-hand shop in our street. There was a lorry decorated with ribbons and paper flowers; we all had garlands to carry and flowers in our hair and we all sat in the back of the lorry. At the park, the lorries were to be judged to see which Chapel had the best one. We were all excited and singing on the way. We hadn’t been at the park very long when there was a terrible thunderstorm. We must have looked a sorry sight because all the colours ran from the paper flowers down our dresses and faces. Then one of the women who helped with the Chapel took us all to her house in Handsworth. She undressed us and put us to bed while our clothes were dried. I had never been in such a posh house; there were about six of us in each bed and we must have spoiled her lovely sheets but she didn’t seem to mind. Then they came up with huge jugs of hot cocoa and we all had a cupful. To me that was more thrilling than taking part in the parade. I never forgot that woman and it was only as I got older that I appreciated what she had done for us children. My Mother-in-Law.
She was left a widow with four children when her husband died in the First World War. My husband was the eldest at about eight years old. There were three boys and a girl. After a few years she married again and had another five children. They lived in a little house in a terrace in Hockley (Kent Terrace, Lodge Road) with no bathroom and they had to share an outside toilet with a neighbour who also had a large family. I was fifteen years old (1933) when I first met her through working with her daughter. Although she had this large family, I never saw the house untidy. She used to do her washing every Monday and the ironing was done on the night and all put away. When her son and I got married, she was fifty a few weeks after our wedding so we had a birthday cake made for her. It was the first one she had ever had. We had a little party for her but soon war was declared and nothing was ever the same again.
When she was fifty, she had long hair which she wore plaited and wound round her ears; they called them ‘earphones’. They made women look much older than they were. Although she had all these children, she made a fuss of all of them. One by one her sons and the girls got married; her husband died and she took it all in her stride – she had her hair cut and permed and she looked younger. Although she now lived in a big house she still did all her own housework and washing. By now she had quite a few grandchildren who all got spoiled.
Every few years she bought a new outfit – new skirt and jumper, new coat and, of course, a new hat. Then she would wear her last best clothes for going out at night and her former ‘night out’ clothes for shopping. It was quite a ritual with her. She always sent away for her shoes from Bury Shoes.
After all the family got married, she left the big house and moved a few doors away to a small house. Every Christmas, all the family used to meet at her house and we would have a real old-fashioned party. The old piano would be played and we would dance and sing ‘til well after midnight; the kids loved it. Sadly, when she was 75 years old, she was taken ill; it was terminal cancer but she didn’t know – she thought she had an ulcer. In October the doctor gave her two months to live but she was game to the last and on Christmas Day she got my husband to take her down to our little pub and buy her half a pint of ale. That was the last time she went out. She died on January 14th.
What a life………..
More memories of Pollie can be found on the streets pages of Foundry Road and Lodge Road
JOE and POLLIE
1st Christmas Story 04/12/08
I remember going to an arranged party at what was the Fire Station in Lodge Road the fire station became Bushells army surplus. I am guessing now but it must have been in1945/46 I was given a chemistry set and mixed things which fizzed or changed colour however it did not inspire me to become a chemist or anything like that.Does anybody remembeer Bushells? Here is a verse I wrote some time ago which if you do remember it may bring back some memories. Anthony Brindle firstname.lastname@example.org
Tolkien in his wildest dream Canvas webbing and Sam Browns leather
Could never imagine such a scene Waterproof suits to beat the weather
A cave dim lit with goods high piled Metal boxes that once held grenades
Some a mystery most well soiled Regimental brasses worn on parade
Ten thousand objects what a place Water bottles and hurricane lamps
To send a lads mind into outer space All you needed for next summer camp
What would ones peering eyes reveal Was a white pith helmet that I chose
Hands tight on money to make a deal Two old pennies for one of those
Deep in this world of army surplus Get paint and brush from grandads shed
Where all the items must have a purpose Daub the gangs sign and put on my head
Nansen sledges at least twelve feet long Out of the shed and into the light
Seemed to be selling for just a song Then of to Black Patch ready to fight
Days of childhood through the past
I never did buy that Nansen sledge
Correction to 1st Christmas Story 11/12/08
The festive time has nearly arrived, for the memories of joy & happiness of youth. The story by Anthony Brindle about the fire station in Lodge Road was incorrect, there was never one in our area. I have contacted Tony and exchanged view points on this subject, and I have suggested that he was very young during the war years, and that the Old Rectory could have been used for the meetings for the local A.R.P. Wardens, In our exchange his family connections where people that lived in my locality. His mothers brother I recalled was a 32 Lodge Road Tram Driver and had the privilege of driving the last tram on our (No 32) route. Your Web pages are full of nostalgic memories and happy times.
Good Health and Happiness to all at Xmas. Colin Mills email@example.com
2nd Christmas Story 11/12/08
One mid December towards the end of the 1980's, I was invited, by a long term patient and his mum, to a Christmas party in one of the wards at All Saints Hospital. The ward had been made as cheerful as possible with decorations, balloons and a tree. The staff had worked really hard to create a cheerful atmosphere and lay on a tasty and colourful tea.
The hospital had become J's home- he had developed mental health issues when he was doing his A levels and he was now in his 40's. Already, the hospital was being wound down and the patients were being encouraged into 'the community'...
But on that cold afternoon, the patients were made to feel special, warm and part of a group. They were finding it difficult to cope with the change in routine, but were clearly enjoying themselves in their own way. We sang carols and played games. J loved introducing me and his mum to the staff and his friends.
Whilst I recognised the need for the old 'asylums' to be replaced with more modern units, I grieve for people like J, who lost his home, the lovely grounds where he loved to wander and be relatively safe and free-to be thrown onto the mercy of a community which didn't always understand-and an overstretched system.
I'll always remember that Christmas party in the midst of Winson Green.
Anne Woodford firstname.lastname@example.org
MURDER QUERY 01/10/07
Could you help John Gillon it's about a story he heard years ago and I wonder if anyone on the web site knows any more .
The story is about a police constable who murdered a women on the side of the canal, I believe it took place in the twenties in the Winson Green area and the police constables name was Powers that is all I know about it.
If you are able to help E:mail email@example.com with any addittions.
Mike Greens reply 26/10/07
As a young child, I remember my mother talking, in hushed tones, about this incident. Joseph Powers, who used to be a policeman, lived very near to us, at what I think would have been 20 or 22 Heath Green Road, and we used to pass his back gate when using the passageway to the backs of the Williams and our house.
My mother claimed that Joe Powers, who I believe was Irish, had once chased her! He later committed a murder and was subsequently hanged at Winson Green prison. This was confirmed to me when, many years later, I read an account of the affair which was published in a crime series (by Fenton Bresslaw?) in, I think, The People newspaper.
Apparantly a young courting couple were strolling along the canalside in Winson Green when they were stopped by Powers who claimed that he was a police officer and that they were breaking the regulations by being there.
When the young man offered some objection, he was knocked unconcious by Powers and when he recovered, his girlfriend was nowhere to be seen and her body was found later on. When the police questioned the young man, the detective in charge instantly had a hunch on the identity of the killer and took the young man to a nearby factory, (I believe to be Cannings on Constitution Hill) where the employees where coming out and the young man identified Joe Powers. This all took place in the very early Thirties.
The answer to the above question 26/10/07
Power, James Joseph
A former policeman sentenced to death at Birmingham Assizes by Mr Justice Swift on 9th December, 1927, for the murder of Olive Turner, a young factory worker. One night in autumn l927, twenty one year old Miss Turner and her boyfriend Charles Bromhead were strolling beside a canal at Winson Green, in the shadows of Birmingham prison, when they were stopped by Power. Pretending to be a plain clothes policeman, he asked them for proof of identity. When they could not prove who they were, he told them he was taking them into custody on suspicion of committing some crime. As they headed towards the station. Power suggested he was open to a bribe by saying they could 'square up with him.' Bromhead offered him fourpence. 'Fourpence is no good to me,' he replied. At that moment. Bromhead, rightly suspecting that Power was an imposter, told Olive to make a run for it. Power gave chase. and struck Bromhead a blow to face. rendering him senseless for a short time. When he came to. the others had disappeared. Further down the path. a courting couple spoke to Power who was dragging the distressed girl by the waist, and he told them he was a policeman taking her into custody. It was l 1.30pm. Five minutes later, another couple heard sounds of a struggle followed by a splash. Olive's body was later discovered in the canal. She had been raped and had died as a result of drowning. Thirty six year old Power was identified by several people as the man on the river bank claiming to be a police officer. As the sentence of death; was passed, Power shouted at the judge that he did not want any sympathy but announced that he planned to appeal. It failed, and he was hanged at Winson Green prison, a stone's throw from where he had committed the murder, by Thomas Pierrepoint and Robert Wilson on the 31st January 1928.
An extract from http://www.real-crime.co.uk/Murder1/DOCA.HTML
Many thanks to Mike Green Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Click DOCA to read many more murder stories from this source.
Have You got any Spooky Stories 06/09/08
I was hoping that you would allow me to ask your website visitors to help me. I am the founder of Smethwick paranormal Investigations but spent some of my childhood growing up opposite Black patch Park. My grandmother was at the Romany encampment for some years in her younger days and later on when I was younger I remember people talking about the ghost of the park and at Winson Green Prison. I am asking for the help of local people who may know any spooky stories or have tales of ghost sightings so that I can place them on the website. I have always felt that areas like Smethwick , Handsworth and Winson Green are overlooked in this field and with the varied and interesting history of these areas I know there will be so many people who remeber stories or have seen ghosts themselves. I would love to hear these stories and hopefully get permission to place them on my website. Many Thanks Lynn
Smethwick Paranormal Investigations email@example.com www.spis.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk
Missing History by Colin Mills 24/09/08
Recently there has been written in the Birmingham Mail & Sunday Mercury the history of the formation of Winson Green & Soho.and giving credence to the area involvement in the Birth of the Industrial Revolution.with the absent of forgetting the people who lived in this deprived area of poor housing, but proud working folk.in all its aversity.
The regeneration programe was started in 1938-39 but was stopped with the out break of war in 1939. when the new redevelopment was reactivated,and new Housing accomdation built,opened the way to bring the word Green into its meaning with the beautiful landscaping areas. Sacrifices were made to achive this,disapperence of Don Street.Harding Street.Parts Allens Road Talbot Street,Musgrave Road.which hold memories of Families,which made this District. I hope this is recorded in history,because the new generations will be unable find on any Maps. History is great when families recall their Ancestry.
Best Regards Colin firstname.lastname@example.org
John and Matilda Underhill 10/08/08
My maternal Grandparents all lived in the All Saints area, but what surprises me is the amount of times they seem to have moved house. John Underhill, my Great Granddad married Matilda Kirkham at St. Mary's in 1883. Their first child Nellie was born at 44 Abbey Street in 1884, their second Ada Emily was born at 5 Clifton Terrace, Kent Street North in 1886, then came John George in 1888 born at 30 Devonshire Street. In 1890 when their fourth child, Alfred William was born they were living at 5 Ada Place, Kent Street North and they are listed on the 1891 Census as living at 2 Kent Street North. My Granddad Harry Joseph was born in 1892 at 220 Lodge Road and their youngest child Margaret Victoria was born in 1897 at 139 Lodge Road, but by 1901 the family had moved again and were living at 21 Norton Street.
Both my Granddad & Great Granddad worked in the Jewellery Quarter for Peyton & Pepper but I have been told that Great Granddad John Underhill worked from home at one time and that 220 Lodge Road was a shop. I wonder if anyone could confirm this for me please?
We know from my Great Gran, Matilda Underhill's (nee Kirham) death certificate that on 22nd. October 1911 the family had moved yet again and were living at 2A John Street, Aston and in 1915 they appear to have moved to 5 Park Grove, Park Road, just a few streets away. By 1916 the family had moved yet again and were living at 70 Anglesey Street, where my Great Granddad was to settle at last, for the rest of his days.
In 1918 my Granddad Harry Joseph Underhill married a local girl, Edith Rose Hill, who lived at 19 Devonshire Street
Like most youngsters of the Victorian age, after school activities revolved around the local church community and music played an important part in their lives too, especially as Granddad’s older brother Jack, was a piano teacher. I seem to remember Granddad telling me that Alf played the violin and I’m sure one of his sisters, possible Ada, sang as a soprano, for the Birmingham Choral Society. Encouraged by his Mom and his brothers and sisters, Granddad learned to play the cornet and when he started work with his father and brother Jack, at Payton and Peppers, a Birmingham Jewellery manufacturer, he became a member of the Jewellery Quarter Apprentice’s Brass Band.
It seems that the Underhill’s had a strong connection with Payton and Pepper, as according to the 1891 Census, Emma, the daughter of Samuel and Emma Underhill, had married Henry Payton. I’m not sure as yet what the relationship was with our side of the Underhill family, but there must be some link with the company somewhere along the lines as I know Granddad, his brother Jack and their Father worked for the company at one time.
The local Church Music group used to put on shows occasionally and the band Granddad belonged to would often provide the music. It was while playing in the band at a production of Snow White by the local drama group that he was first introduced to (my Gran), Edith Rose Hill, who lived in nearby Devonshire Street. She was singing the lead as Snow White and by all accounts had a really good voice. Granddad’s heart was won at first sight and judging by the early photographs I have you could tell why and from that moment on their romance blossomed.
Wedding bells were in the air not long after Gran and Granddad met, as Granddad’s sister Ada Emily married George Lewis Pettit on 7th. September 1912 and three months later, his brother, Alfred William Underhill married Florence Nellie Smith on Boxing day 1912 and there was a large family celebration, making it certainly a Christmas to remember.
Behind the happiness of a young couple very much in love, lurked the dark clouds of the First World War though. In 1914, Gran and Granddad had arranged to go to Scarborough with Granddads brother Jack and his wife May over the August bank holiday and I have a photograph of them taken on the beach at Scarborough.
They enjoyed a nice break and were strictly chaperoned of course as it wasn’t the done thing for a young man and woman to go away together on their own, but while they were there, they were surprised to see the Army preparing for war and landing on the beach in full battle dress. As they returned home the trains were packed with soldiers and reservists rushing back to their headquarters and there were rumours spreading like wild fire that Britain was about to declare war on Germany. The following day, the rumours were confirmed to be true by the headline news and the world seemed to have been turned upside down by the looming conflict. The peace and security that everyone had become so accustomed to had been shattered and when War was declared on Germany in August 1914 everyone thought it would be all over by Christmas. Britain was a Global Empire and the strongest nation the world had ever seen they had the best of everything and with God on their side people felt that they were invincible. By December 1914 though, World War I had already turned into a war the like of which no one had ever seen before and there were an estimated 3,000,000 casualties. Young fit men who were not occupied in essential labour were made to feel that it was their duty to volunteer and were literally preached into the forces from the pulpit. It was believed that they were fighting God’s war and it was a mans duty to fight for their God and King. The United Kingdom, was, according to the clergy God’s Kingdom here on earth, so they were fighting God‘s battles and with God on their side how could they possibly loose. To reinforce this idea, when men enlisted they were given a copy of the New Testament with their signed pledge of allegiance stuck inside the back cover, which read;
“I hereby pledge my allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ as my Saviour and King, by God’s help to fight His battles and bring victory to His kingdom.”
Gran and Granddad were caught up in a wave of patriotism that ran through the country like a great river and he decided along with his brother Jack that it was time they volunteered their services and after discussing it with Edith and the family and getting their blessing they both joined up. I guess that Granddad’s other brother, Alfred William joined up about the same time, but as yet I haven’t any evidence of that. After basic training, most men were sent home and went back to their normal professions while waiting to be called into service. This was a great adventure, or so men thought and not one to be missed. In the early part of the war, there were more men volunteering in a day, than normally joined up in a year and this patriotic fervour tended to overwhelm the system.
Gran and Granddad were very much in love and in this heady atmosphere of change Granddad proposed to Gran and she accepted with great pleasure. On 18th. December 1915 they were married at Saint Chrysoston’s Church.
Gran, whose maiden name was Hill, always used to joke and say that when she married Granddad he took her from the Hill to Under the Hill, but said that no matter how long they both lived, they’d never be over the hill. It was certainly true as well, because although they were in their 70’s, they couldn’t have been more in love if they’d have been teenagers and were always touching, holding hands and kissing. In fact, despite living through some terribly hard times and facing many, many challenges together, I’d say they were the closest couple I’ve ever known and their love for one another just seemed to overflow to embrace the rest of the family too.
Granddad’s address is then given as 5 Park Grove. Park Road, Aston, so presumably the Underhill family had moved yet again. Granddad was 23 and Gran (Edith Rose Hill) was just a year older and was living at house No.19 in nearby Devonshire Street at the time. After they married Gran and Granddad rented a house at 10 Hunters Vale, Aston Manor. Like most Victorian women, Gran didn’t know anything about the facts of life when they were first married, as those things were just not spoken of and to be honest Granddad didn’t know much more either. Their natural instincts led them in the right direction though and they soon found how to express their love and a real sense of fulfilment as they lay in each others arms.
In the January of 1915, Jack and May’s first child Irene was born and Granddad was asked if he‘d be her Godfather. Granddad accepted the honour and the whole family celebrated Irene’s Christening. In the back of their minds though was the news they were hearing about British casualties on the battlefields of France and they knew it wouldn’t be long before Harry and Jack were also called to do their duty. The true nature of the war had begun to emerge during the course of 1915 and the pictures the newspapers were painting were rather bleak. The Western Front had reached a bloody stalemate and men were being slaughtered in fruitless offensives by the thousands, or else they were driven out of their wits by living with the unrelenting bombardment and the daily likelihood of facing a violent death. Because of the flood of so many new recruits and the time it took to process all the applications of the volunteers though, it seems that Jack and Harry were not called up until the early part of 1916. I’m not sure, but I think that Jack was called first and was enlisted as a Private in the 4th Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment (Service No. 66069.) Within a few days Granddad was called up too and after receiving his basic training, Granddad was given his orders and posted to the Royal Warwickshire Royal Field Artillery Division (Service No. 139083 DVR. H. J. Underhill. R.A.)
There was no turning back now. Granddad and Jack had volunteered and signed a pledge of allegiance and were expected to give their lives for King and Country if necessary. Every able-bodied man was expected to do his duty and the fear of reproach and shame that would be brought on their families proved to be far greater than the fear of a violent death at the front line. Although the men going to war had read the newspapers and the reports of thousands of thousands of casualties, they all believed they would return to their families and that they would eventually win the war.
I remember Gran telling me how she waved goodbye to Granddad on the platform of Snow Hill Station in Birmingham and how she hurt inside as she watched the train disappear into the gloom. She wondered if she would ever see Granddad again and then felt bad for thinking such negative thoughts. Gran had to remain positive, especially as she believed that she may be pregnant. Granddad knew nothing about this though as Gran thought it was best not to say anything until she was really sure and she certainly didn’t want to make it any harder for Granddad to leave her.
While Granddad was still fighting in France, he was notified of his sister Nellie Matilda’s death. Nellie was only 32 and hadn’t married as when her Mom passed away in 1911 she felt that it was her duty to look after her Father. I think she had worked in the Jewellery Trade since leaving school, but just after the First World War started and women were called upon to help the war effort by taking work in the factories, Nellie had become an Ammunition Worker. Whether this had got something to do with her untimely death, I don’t know, but she had been fairly well up until the end of April 1916 when she had a bad bout of sickness and diarrhoea. Her condition steadily worsened and she eventually lost consciousness and passed away on 9th. May 1916. So in the short time he’d been away, Granddad had lost a sister and experienced the horrors of war at the front. The Underhill’s were a close family and it must have been awful knowing that there was nothing he could do to help the family cope with their loss. He wasn’t even allowed compassionate leave, so he could attend the funeral, but in the darkness and despair there was just one glimmer of hope and light as by this time he had been told that he was about to become a Father.
Granddad would never talk about his experiences during the war, but I was told that he fought at the Dardanelle’s, in Turkey and in the Middle East, where he met T.E. Lawrence, who has become better known as “Lawrence of Arabia.” As he was in the Royal Artillery, he was quite close to the big guns and in the vicinity of enemy shelling as they tried to knock out the British positions. The pounding of the guns and the constant shelling that went on for days at a time, sometimes without letup, destroyed Granddad’s nerves and made him a mental wreck for a time. He once told me that unless you’d experienced it you couldn’t even begin to understand what it was like. It wasn’t just the constant noise, but the vibrations of the guns and the shells as they exploded around you that did the damage. He told me that the shock waves would rip through you in wave after wave of agony, so much so that he knew of some men who volunteered for the front line just to get away from it. In fact, one of Granddad’s mates told him that he’d much rather take his chances in the trenches and go over the top to fight the Germans than to face another day with the guns. Another chap who was with him committed suicide because he couldn’t stand it any longer. Shell shock affected them all, but it wasn’t recognized as a genuine disorder at the beginning part of the war and officers thought it was just an excuse made by men who wanted out. I’ve read accounts of men being driven mad by exposure to this sort of thing and Granddad was lucky to come out of the war with the scars he had I suppose. One can only imagine the carnage that Granddad witnessed during the War and yet he was such a gentle man in every sense of the word. The sort of man who wouldn’t harm a fly in normal life, but here he was shelling the enemy and being shelled in return, he not only saw the carnage a shell could do, but was only too aware that he was helping to inflict this sort of suffering on others. Gran once told me that he’d seen a group of men blown to pieces by a shell just a few feet away from where he was standing. One moment they were standing there chatting and the next moment they were all ripped into little pieces and all dead and yet Granddad was unscathed, physically.
News from home was a rare treat, but the post somehow got through and Granddad managed to write letters and postcards home, two of which I have in my photo album. Letters were censored though and it wasn’t permitted to write anything negative about the war, or the morale of your fellow soldiers and you could be court marshalled for writing anything that could be seen as damaging. Granddad saw a number of men court marshalled and a few of them, even young lads of 16 or 17 face the firing squad and sometimes for the most trivial of crimes too. It was believed by the officers in his regiment that the men serving under them had to be more in fear of them than they did of the enemy, as this would prevent any insubordination and bring total obedience.
Granddad received news that Gran was pregnant in the June of 1916 and his first child Eileen, was born just four months later, on 16th. October, but he didn’t get to hear about it until she was four and a half months old. By this time Granddad had contracted malaria and had been hospitalised for some weeks and was in no fit state to reply. When he was eventually able to make a reply, the first part of his postcard was rather strange and didn’t make much sense, but then he becomes more fluent and says about the photo on the front of the card;
“These photo’s ought to be better than this for 3/- dozen, the background ought to look lovely, it’s just by our hut and nothing but fields at the back of it, but never mind, they will be nice to look back on in years to come, won’t they dear, when I come home and know what it is to be a Daddy.”
The next bit of the card is virtually illegible as it’s very faded and was written in pencil, but he seems to promise that he would come back home one day.
Although Granddad managed to avoid enemy fire, he almost lost his life when a shell exploded next to him as he was riding back to base. The horse reared throwing him from the saddle and bolted, but Granddad’s foot was caught in the stirrup and as the horse fled, he was being dragged along, with his head and body banging against the rocky ground. Luckily for Granddad one of his mates, who was coming from the opposite direction saw what had happened and taking his revolver, he shot the horse, thereby saving Granddad’s life. When the officers got to hear about this though, the soldier was court marshalled for shooting the horse as they could get men, but horses were in short supply. I don’t know what happened to the soldier, but I know from what Granddad told me that he certainly saved his life. Granddad spent another few weeks in hospital after this incident and while he was out of action, most of his regiment were killed.
The other postcard I have is a little more fluent and was written when Granddad’s health had improved somewhat. It’s dated 1st. November 1917 and here he writes;
“Dearest, “I do not forget Eileen’s
I Wish you many happy returns Birthday, so mother will understand
And hope it will be the last Nov 24th. and give her a big Birthday X
That we shall be parted. for Daddy when it comes. XXX”
God bless you.
Your loving husband,
World War I eventually came to an end on 11th November 1918, but less than a month before this Jack lost his life. By this time he’d been transferred to the Labour Corps, 306th Prisoner of War Company, transfer No.650617. John George Underhill was classed among the Commonwealth War Dead and was buried at the Abbeville Communal Cemetery Extension, Somme, France. (Grave Ref: IV.H.4.) I’m not sure how he lost his life, but I was told by a member of the family that he had died of a heart attack on arrival in France. The above information from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, proves to be wrong though as he had served with the Suffolk Regiment to start with and was then transferred to the Labour Corps, probably when the Suffolk’s had been all but destroyed. Hopefully though a visit to the Public Records Office will solve this mystery and tell me a little about Granddad and Alfred’s war records.
The Readers Digest book “Yesterday’s Britain” says the following about the end of the war, which sums up the situation rather well;
“The Great War came to an end at last on November 11th. 1918. Three quarters of a million British soldiers had died, and the total war dead numbered 12 million – ‘Half the seed of Europe’ as Wilfred Owen put it. The survivors were scarred in mind and body, or both. ‘You people at home look upon me as the same Jack who went away four years ago’, wrote one serviceman. ‘I love you all as dearly, if not more, but in every other respect I am a different chap. My nerves are all jagged. When one has seen the sights and heard the sounds that I have, how can you expect them to be otherwise?”
This is borne out by my Grandparents experiences after the war, as the man who came back, was only a shadow of the man who marched off to fight for his country. Granddad suffered terribly for the rest of his life and was a physical and mental wreck for many years. Both Gran and Granddad now had to try to readjust to civilian life and although Granddad had only been away for two and a half years, when he returned home in early 1919 they both found it difficult to cope. Gran said that the man she waved goodbye to at Snow Hill Station, never returned from the war and when Granddad did return, he didn’t even look the same. She knew it was the same man, but the war and his experiences had changed him both physically and mentally. In fact she said it was just like welcoming a stranger into their home. There was no Social Security in those days and Granddad wasn’t deemed ill enough to receive a pension and with a young baby to support, he had no choice but to return to work. Luckily he still had a job to go to, which was fairly well paid, but many men returned to find themselves out of work and with no means of support. By the end of 1920, there were over a million unemployed and a third of these were ex-servicemen.
Granddad used to experience flash-backs and nightmares and it got so bad at one point that Gran had to hide all the knives in the house as she was frightened about what Granddad might do, not only to her and Eileen, but to himself. He often woke up screaming and because he had suffered terribly from a shortage of water while in the Middle East, he used to fly into a rage if he saw a tap dripping. With Gran’s loving care though, Granddad started to make a fairly good recovery, but then tragedy struck and Eileen developed bronchitis. This turned into whooping cough and then pneumonia and eleven days later, on 16th. November 1919, she died.
The war had not only robbed Granddad of his physical and mental health to some extent, but it had also robbed him of the most precious thing of all, getting to know his daughter. He had missed out on over two thirds of Eileen’s short life and the little girl he buried, in the November of 1919, he hardly knew. I can remember Granddad telling me once that he didn’t feel anything as he stood by the graveside, but was just numb. This was his own flesh and blood, his only daughter that he was laying to rest, his firstborn, but he didn’t feel any emotion at all and couldn’t grieve for her, because he didn’t really know her. This made him feel really bad about himself and would sometimes say if you really knew me and what I‘ve done, you wouldn't‘t want to know me let alone call me Granddad. Whatever he had done that he was so ashamed of would play on his mind for the rest of his days and he was very bitter about it at one time.
I was told that Granddad didn’t seem to have emotions when he first came back from the war and couldn’t feel anything, not even grief for his daughter, or love for the woman he married and who he was so in love with before he went away. Gradually though things started to improve and as the years passed my Gran’s compassion and tender loving care eventually won his affections again.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom though as there were times when he became his old self again and they enjoyed life, but these spells didn’t last long and the slightest thing could set him back. A car backfiring, or a door slamming could send him into a panic and he couldn’t stand to be in a crowd of people, as for some reason, crowds made him angry. This meant that living and working in Birmingham was difficult and sometimes after a day at work he get in the house, shut and bolt the door behind him and just break down and end up sitting on the floor with his head in his hands and in floods of tears. Today it’s much more acceptable for a man to cry, but in those days it was seen as weakness. Not only that, but he was unable to be intimate with Gran for some time after returning home and he didn’t feel that he was a man anymore. He suffered from terrible bouts of depression, experienced highs and deep lows, but gradually he started to come out of himself and always said that it was down to my Gran more than anyone else and used to say; “I don’t know what I’d be without your Gran’s love…She is my rock, my shelter from the storm and my strength.”
The 28th. August 1924 saw the birth of their second child Dorothy Margaret and by this time they were living at Great Granddad’s house, 70 Anglesey Street, Lozells. I think both Gran and Granddad saw this as a second chance and named their little girl Dorothy as it meant ‘Gift of God.’ Granddad’s panic attacks and flashbacks had begun to subside and he was generally enjoying much better physical and mental health. To say that he doted on his little girl would be going a little far maybe, but he certainly loved her dearly and became a very good and loving Dad. Family had always been important to Gran and she was always close to all the family and they all seem to have got on really well together, but she was especially close to her sister Caroline, her husband Percy Poole and their daughter Kay, who was born about the same time as Dorothy, my Mom. In fact Dot and Kay were brought up as sisters almost and both families spent an awful lot of time together.
70 Anglesey Street was Great Granddad Underhill’s house that he had bought leasehold but sometime between Eileen’s death in 1919 and 1924, Gran and Granddad had moved into the family home. By this time there was only Granddad’s sister Margaret (Meg) and Great Granddad living there and things were getting a bit too much for aunty Meg to cope with, as Great Granddad was a rather demanding man. In order to give Meg a hand and have someone on hand if things with Granddad got out of hand, it made sense for Gran and Granddad to move into Great Granddad‘s. Gran gave up work so that she could look after the house and care for Granddad when he was ill. There were many times when he was unable to work because of his physical and mental health and in those days, if you didn‘t work you didn‘t get paid, so the move seems to have been more out of necessity than anything. Granddad‘s malaria used to flare up occasionally and knock him off his feet and he suffered terrible depressions at one time too, so it was agreed that if Gran looked after the house, while Aunty Meg and Great Granddad were out at work, then they could stop there rent free.
Gran & Granddad Underhill stopped in Anglesey Street until Granddad died in 1977.
Marg & Steve email@example.com
LOCAL PICTURE HOUSES 29/02/08
I don't think the younger generation realise what a big part the local cinema or picture house as we called them played in our lives. Before the days that every house had TV. I think most folks went to the pictures a least once a week, and most kids went to the Saturday matinee. We all had our favourite cinema ours was the Grove on Dudley Road but we did visit others such as The Winson Green, The Regal in Handsworth or the Gaumont in Smethwick.
My grandparents lived opposite us and dad used to send us over to borrow the evening paper to see what films was showing at the various cinemas. In the fifties there was half a page of cinemas listed the the films showing and of course the start time of the last performance.If it was a good film you may have to queue for a while to get in and each cinema had the the man in a smart uniform standing at the door.
So somtimes it was with mom and dad, then Saturday mornings the kids matinee when we were older we used to go in the evening without grown ups providing it was a U rated but the kids use to ask folksgoing in if they would take them in as they were to young. When we were in our teens and looked sixteen it was the X rated films and I remember how good it felt to get in even if I was little under age. Also what value for money you would see two films unless it was a long one The News or Pathe Pictorial and then the trailers of the films that were coming in the near future and even a cartoon if you were lucky. All this for less than two bob (shillings) and a ice cream in the interval for a tanner(sixpence). Where did we do our courting especially in the dark cold winters nights? at the pictures of course.I can even remember the school used to take us on very rare occassins one was to see the film of the coronation and another to see the film Around World In Eighty Days.
Can anyone remember another picture house on Dudley Road. I believe it was on the corner of Chiswell Road and later became Hawleys Dance Hall, my dad use to tell me it cost a penny or two and the films in those days were silent and black and white. I think it was closed when they opened the Grove in the twenties.
Now I will tell you one or two of my personal memories of the pictures. I was about seven years old and was at the Satuday kids show. What we little kids did to see better was tilt the seat up and sit on the front edge. The last film we saw was the serial and it always finished in a dramatic way such as someone had been tied to the railway lines or someone was hanging over a cliff, well this particular week it was me who was causing all the drama and excitment. Somehow I had managed to get my foot stuck in the seat and I was causing a bit of a commotion and soon there was more kids watching me than the film. Next the manager was there and he had to fetch the maintance man to work out how to get my foot out. The maintancman wanted to take the seat apart but the manager was not keen on that idea(I think he would have sooner cut my foot off) , anyway after a few minutes and most of the kids had missed the film I somehow freed myself. I had a sprained ankle for a few days but survived.
Down the Green thats the Winson Green cinema the gents toilet was through a door at the front and also through the door was the emergency exit, and one of our tricks was to let our mates in the emergency door for free. JOHN GILLON firstname.lastname@example.org
FLICKS or the WINSON GREEN PICTURE PALACE (Another Picture House Story) 02/04/08
Having researched the picture house and found a connection of a Villa Player named John Devey and Family having been the owners in the 1914s and became a Limited Company .
Stories of the " Flicks " in Winson Green Road will have many recalls of Saturday mornings exchanges with your Favorite Heroes, Buck Rodgers with the Claymen against the Scorpion.Three Stooges, Tarzan & Jane + boy and the monkey, Harold Lloyd & keystone Cops. Laurel & Hardy, Roy Rogers & Trigger, Bud Abbot + Lou Costello, Hoplong Cassidy. All the girls walked home arm in arm with their friends. The boys all enacting their favorite, including riding the horses. This picture house was part of the community, playing the haven for the younger generation. The "Palace" so called by the older folk will remember that pre 1940s that the picture house was fitted with a Orchestra Pit for an Organ or Piano to play to Silent Movies was situated from the entrance in Wellington Street to exit doors that came out the side of the Acorn Pub. John Gillon mentioned the exit doors a scheme to let their mates in, that's fine until the doorman caught you as mention the smart Man in uniform was named Harry Gold and lived in Don Street behind Manisons Newsagents Lodge Road. As all locals recall the lower level was divide into two sections. On one occasion ten mates decided to go in the front row armed with clay pipes and a tin of sweet shaggy tobacco, we loaded our pipes and litup and puffed away covering the screen with smoke, with none able to see the film with every person shouting throw them out, Harry came charging down the passage way, we quickly exited through the back door into Winson Green Road and disappeared from view. There are many stories connected to all the Cinema a adjacent to the area.
Regards Colin Mills email@example.com
WINSON GREEN ICONS 28/09/07
Reading Comments of People wishing to save the Black Patch Park,and entrance of Tears Western Road to which I total agree with. Winson Green has two ICONS that helpt to build a community that we are all proud of in our area
The first The Recreation Park "REC" Musgrave Road were the youths Boys & Girls played,the boys were loaned Cricket Equipment free of charge and the girls Net Ball,and all able expend their energy, also a Sons of Rest for the older generation to engage in cards, dominoes,darts,and a First Class,Bowling Green for their use. The Second that played a great part of the Community, Congregational Church "Institute" Lodge Road that provided access to facilities for the Company 14th Boys Brigade for local lads to belong,the involvement made boys into Men the people that gave their services to the "BB" Mr.Cane Cpt. Mr.Williams Lt. Mr.Sheppard Lt. Mr Tibbitts Wo/mace Alan Lewis Sgt Stan Bosworth Sgt,B/L Timmins Bros Cpls,Spiller Bros,Poole Bros,B.Jones B.Kavanagh.B.Whiston.W.Medding,L.Davies.S.Joyner. F.Mason Cpl,Bonus Bros,Leighton,Bancroft,Darby, Overton Bros,Kane Bros*,Ward Bros,Mine E.Robinson,Dubberley Bros,Clifton Bros,Brookes Bros,T,Cox R.Bull,CorbetsBros,Gold,Mould Bros Wiggins Bros* Birch Bros,J.Ravenall,J.Rotheroe, R.Essex Bros* R.Powell,Whitehouse Bros*R Greadwell C.Mills,T.Honeybone,M.Lewiss. all participated in building a great Community the high lights were Marching and Playing Music with the very young marching at the rear follow with the main parade to Central Hall in Birmingham City and meeting the neighbouring Company,The 39th Winson Green,The 36th Camden St very spectacular all playing different tunes. *Denotes all became Officers Save our Heritage & History. Regards Colin Mills firstname.lastname@example.org
THE OLD GUN SITE 10/11/04
This is a shot in the dark but I wondered if you or some of the visitors to your site could help me.
As a child I used to play at, what I was told was, the old gun site. It was near to where hilltop farm used to be, passed the Uplands Allotments.
I would really like to know more about this site and wondered if you could help me out with any information?
I have also heard that there were both German and Italian prisoner of war camps located in the same area. Again, I would like to learn what I can of these.
Any information you can supply would be greatly appreciated.
Thanking you in anticipation,
Paul (Holmes). E:mail email@example.com
Having read a few stories the Gun Site, this in my day was called Hill Top Farm.
This was along walk from our area, taking either Benson RD / Bacchus RD, up Ninveah Rd, to Grove Lane,/
Oxhill Rd, down college road to Camp Lane, Up lane passing the farm,onto a place called Waston Pool, this was leftover from the days of Jubilee Colliery, and we swam in,with or without trunks. the Coal Mine had closed down and transferd to Hamstead.and after we would go up the part of the lane scrumping apples from local farm trees.the year approx 1943. Later on a few years, I returned to the Lane 1947/48 because the football club I was playing with, had a football pitch on part of the Farm we marked out the area and then we all with scissors cut the grass,and that became or home ground.anything, anywhere to play football
C Mills, E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
In response to Paul's message about the gun site; my nan and granddad used to live on the Leverets estate, so every Sunday would be an adventure, taking the dogs for a walk up to the gun-site area, which we used to call the barricades. I always wondered what the constructions had been used for, and I was been told it was a gun-post, rather than a prisoner-of-war holding camp. There was a certain eeriness about the shelters, I always felt.
I also remember fantastic rope swings in the surrounding woods, and farmers bailing hay in one of the fields, and one summer night, there being a huge fire with all the bails going up in flames. If you took the left-hand path at the bottom of the fields and walked towards Wasson Pool, as we called it, and then carrying on to Dartmouth Park, I remember finding what we thought was a secret underground nuclear shelter. I think it's still there.
I also remember staying overnight at my grandparents' house, and being scared at being so close to the cemetary, and hearing foxes howling.
Craig Deeley Email Craiguito2@aol.com
Hi, I come across your notice whilst searching for information on Winson Green, and in particular Talbot St as it’s my place of birth. Anyway, I’m digressing.. I have very found memories of the area of Hill Top farm as my family moved from Winson Green to Handsworth in 1971ish and we felt like we has struck gold being surrounded by so many fields. I guess the relevance to your enquiry of the ‘Gun site’, what I recall is the top of the hill immediately behind the Leverettes estate was the old air raid shelters although I was told that they were actually a holding area / barracks for the military UK & US] during world war II and we must have reenacted many battles scenes with sticks for guns as young lads. These shelters were great fun as there was one with lookouts for guns and a set of covers that formed a hexagon shape – one looked destroyed and we convinced ourselves it was as a result of a bomb but that could just be youthful imagination.
One thing that sticks out in my mind is the carvings in the trees behind this area – many of them are ‘sweetheart’ carvings with initials and dates which marry up with the expected dates. It does require you to climb a number of these as I gather there was competition for space! That said I think we added a few carvings ourselves and this was a ‘romantic’ place to take potential sweethearts to…
I recall some 25 + years ago a near neighbor of ours uncovering a box containing some large automatic rifle / gun and loads of ammo – I think it went to the military and there was a bit of a write up in the Evening Mail.
I have returned there over the years and you scan still make out some markings.
I’m sorry my info is not very specific but when I saw your request I smiled at the thought of being able to recount some of my youth to some who knew the area as my wife seems to think I was born in the dark ages not 1966 – I guess that a Winson Green / Handsworth upbringing for you.
I still walk up there on the odd occasion as I return to visit my Father who now has a one room apartment at the Handsworth Cemetery hotel.
To read Pauls full Story on the GUN SITE click below 24/12/04
handsworth_101.htm#defending_handsworth Marc A. McNamara email@example.com
Our Khazi in WELLINGTON STREET
Our kharzi; out the back door, sharp right passed the brew house on the right, then sharp right again and second on the left. Unlike other more unfortunates, our khazi was our own - we didn't have to share it with anyone and there was only one neighbouring toilet attached to it. At the other end of the yard there were three more. All five were brick built (probably better than the houses) with reinforced flat concrete roofs.
The tradition was to have pages of the Sports Argus cut into squares and hung on a nail, to be used for cleaning purposes. As I was the youngest of seven, I'm not sure if this was the practice in my family before I came along, as all I can remember is having train timetables (Father worked on the railways). This, we were assured, was of a far superior softness to newspaper. It also gave the added benefit of improving your geography whilst letting your mind wonder over all the exotically named stations between New Street and Euston.
From that we graduated (a debatable term) to Izal toilet paper (Mother worked as a cleaner for a large local company). For some strange reason, Izal toilet paper (no tissue in those days) was shiny on one side and rough on the other. I never did figure out which side was meant to face the bum - the shiny side slipped and the other made you sore.
Of course the Sports Argus, Blue Mail, Evening Despatch or Daily Mirror made there way into our khazi, but only as reading material. The Argus was my brother's favourite. He spent so much time in this makeshift library that in winter he would take a handmade brazier with him to prevent hypothermia. It consisted of an old paint tin riddled with nail holes and filled with live embers from the fire.
Winter provided more problems than keeping my brother from freezing to the wooden seat. In icy weather, there was the real danger of slipping up en route. This was overcome by blazing a trail of ashes from the back door to the khazi door. Then there was the fear of the plumbing freezing up. Burning a Kelly oil lamp continuously through the worst of the season prevented this. Left on a low light, it was enough to keep the water liquid and provide just about enough light for reading.
Having no electric illumination that distance from the house, finding your way and seeing what you were doing once you got there could be problematic. In the long cold nights of winter, frightened of the dark, my teenage sisters would never make a solo trip. One would always accompany the other, bearing a candle to light the way.
The highlight of the winter season was Bonfire Night. For my brother, a `closet' arsonist with aspirations of being a pyrotechnician, this was the opportunity to show the world what he was really made of. He would spend a fortune on fireworks and adapt our khazi roof as his stage and launch pad for the best display in Wellington Street. Kids would come from near and as far away as Foundry Road to watch him ignite some of the most exotic Roman candles, skyrockets and Katherine Wheels available in the Western World. All would gasp in awe at the pinnacle of the night, when he would set off several bangers, simultaneously, under a dustbin lid to see how high he could lift it.
Summer saw our khazi adapted for other leisure activities. Many were the hours my two sisters would spend up on its roof, soaking up the sun. Up they'd go in their swimsuits, fully equipped with suntan oil (no lotion in those days), magazines to stave off boredom, lemonade to prevent dehydration, and straw hats and sunglasses to block the worst of the sun's rays. There they'd lie on the whitewashed flat roof, soaking up the sun, closed eyes, imagining they were with Princess Grace in Monaco. To bring a little more reality to the proceedings, I once had an idea of painting the roof a nice shade of blue. I imagined it would raise our status by convincing aeroplane passenger that we had a swimming pool in our back garden - sadly I never got round to it.
Then the time came for us to finally leave our Wellington Street abode for the decadence of Ladywood, a bathroom, soft toilet tissue and hot and cold running water (our only previous experience of that was when the wind took a few slates off the roof). I can still recall the sadness of us all as we bade our last farewell to that outside khazi, the centre of our family life, which had served us so well for all those years.
To this day I can recall my last vision of our khazi: It was on a subsequent, nostalgic visit to the old end, that I saw it; the very last structure to be demolished in the redevelopment; it was half tumbled with the roof supporting an old car - overflow from the neighbouring scrap yard, which, in former days had been a very productive allotment.
Gone forever are those happy days but they will stay with me until the day I die. And, when I think back on those memories, I can clearly hear my father's voice ringing out like a timely bell across the eons of time with those immortal words, `We're out of the bum fodder again, Jess?'
Copyright© Paul Holmes 2004
LIVING IN LITTLE PARK ROAD 1960's 24/03/04
My name is Kay Brine nee (Kirby), I now live in Sydney, Australia, but was born in Dudley Rd. Hospital. We lived in Park Rd., opposite the wharf, a few entries up from the Mint in the late 60's. I was about 5. I have read your site and love it. The memories that have come flooding back, are amazing. I desperately want to find my best friend from Park Road., or someone who can remember something about him. I don't remember much, we called him "Johnny With The Pimple In His Mouth". His name therefore must have been Johnny. The reason for the nickname was, he had a big wart on the inside of his bottom lip. He lived a couple of entries up from us, towards the Railway Pub.
My Mom's name was Annie Kirby nee (Chadwick). Our next door neighbours were the Faradays, a big family, who's Father died in that house, of cancer. Over in the next yard to our right, (we lived at the back of a house), lived another good friend, her name was Veronica, but her nickname was "Goga". My 2 older sisters, ( Pat and Margaret ), and I went to Camden St. School. I was in the infants and they were in the seniors, joined by the Hall. I remember there was a little sweet shop on the corner opposite the back gate. We used to have to catch the bus to school, and often, was the practice before school, we would spend our bus fair on kaylie, (served in a cone shaped paper bag), then have to walk home. I also went to All Saints and Benson Rd. Schools. I only attended Benson Rd. for a short time toward the end of my life in Park Rd. I remember when I was told that I had to go to Benson Rd. school, I was not happy, as the school had got a bad rep. at about this time, and was nicknamed "THE DUSTBIN SCHOOL". The local rumors were that the kids there were eating out of the dustbins. (Now as I think about it, it was probably just school rivalry). Does anyone else remember that nickname for that school?
I was always getting in trouble, thinking back on the freedom I had at such an early age, is quite frightening. There was a man that lived just up the Rd. a bit, towards the Railway Pub, his name was Mick ( Irish Mick ). Every time I got in trouble, Mom would always shout "Go get Mick!", "Go get Mick!". One time, I cut my wrist while playing over the wharf, then when I came home really late, Mom went to give me a belting, When she saw all the blood gushing out of my wrist, she shouted for someone to go get Mick. I think she called for him because he was one of the few who had a car. As far as I can remember, (from a 5 yr olds view) he seemed about 7ft tall, with dark curly hair and a thin beard and moustache. I also got stuck on the outside window sill of the first floor bedroom, everyone was panicking, then Mom sent for Mick. I remember he was that tall he could almost reach me without climbing. I have read on your site about Park Rd., there is a Michael, I wonder, is this Irish Mick?
Mom was on her own at Park Rd. She met my step Dad in the Bulls Head on "the Flat", they got married and we moved to Sutton Coldfield where he lived. He adopted Margaret and I, and changed our name to Coates. Mom felt that the name Kirby was a bad name to have at that time. At this time, my real father, Lennard ( Tubby ) Kirby was in prison, for things that are better left unsaid.
The houses in Park Rd. were demolished a few months after that. Our oldest sister Pat stayed at the house with her new husband, Steven Dawes ( Johnson ), and were then relocated to Kingstanding.
My Grandad & Nan, Alfred and Harriet Jones nee ( Middleton, Chadwick ), lived in All Saints Rd. opposite the railway wall by old factory buildings. They had a scrap yard there, before that they had a scrap yard in Talbot St., maybe someone remembers them, or their sons ( my Mom's brothers ). Their names are : Walter Henry Middleton, Ronnie Middleton, Billy Jones and Alfred Baydon Jones. They, with my Mom, used to drink in the Bulls Head Pub, at the end of "the Flat".
My sister Margaret lives here in Australia, just around the corner from me, she also loves your site. She was older, and has a better memory of life back then, street names ex, I'm sure you will be hearing from her real soon.
Does anyone remember me, or any of my family? Can anyone shed any light on "Johnny with the Pimple In His Mouth"? Could your Michael from Park Rd., be My Hero; Irish Mick?
I would deeply appreciate any help your readers can give me.
Keep up the good work, I just love your site, I'll remember more and send it to you.
Enclosed a photo of Margaret and I taken at Camden St. School,1969 and a photo of my Nan, and my uncle Wally, taken in the Bulls Head Pub.
Kay Brine nee (Kirby) Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
See Kay's sisters story on the Streets page PARK ROAD
A Visit to see Mom 30/04/03
I had been away, living in Australia for twenty-five years, and suddenly decided that it was time for me to go and see my Mom in England. I didn’t phone or write to tell her that I was visiting her, as I wanted it to be a surprise. I boarded the jumbo jet in Adelaide for a very boring flight half way around the world. Arriving in Birmingham, I waited at the wrong bus stop for half an hour. Then I stopped a young man, with two painful looking rings in his eyebrow, walking past me to ask if I was waiting at the right place.
‘Is this where the 96 bus goes to Winson Green’ I said in my best Aussie/English.
‘Na’ he said, ‘Cuddna bin, aint been there for yers, use to be. Any road up, ya daft apeth, there ‘aint no buz stop sign is tha. It’s over theya. Gorra goo, need a slash.’
He pointed down the road a bit, then hurried off. I knew then for sure that this was Brum the city of my birth, some things never change. The bus came and I sat next to a black lady, who was very nice to me, and we had a little chat. I told her that I used to live in Winson Green, but not now. I was surprised when we started to talk to hear her strong Brummie accent. I’m not sure what I expected. She said, ‘Wheya yow living now then luv?’
When I told her that I lived in Australia and had done for twenty-five years, she said, ‘Oo that’s funny, yow sound like us. Is it ‘ot there?’
Eventually, with some excitement I knocked the door of 24 Preston Road, Winson Green, very loudly, for I knew from my sister's correspondence that Mom was going deaf. She eventually opened the door and said, ‘There’s no need to knock the door down, I ain’t deaf. Oh, alow Tone, yow know were the kichen is put the kettle on’.
She then turned around and disappeared out the back somewhere. My mother had never been demonstrative, but I did expect a perfunctory hug or maybe a quick peck on the cheek, as I had been away for so long. But I didn’t get either. Although she did ask me when I was coming home, as though I had been away on a holiday for twenty-five years. And she said that my bed was made up, in 'my' room, even though she didn’t know that I was coming to England. I thought that this was strange, as I hadn't lived with her since I was eighteen. We talked of this and that but whenever I raised the subject of what my brother and sisters were up to, she said in a firm tone, ‘It’s nothing to do with me’
Oh, and she did mention the Jamaican lady next door, whom she liked very much. Later on in the afternoon she said confidentially that this neighbour had a black 'babbee'. After our conversation, mom took her afternoon nap. I went outside and played football in the street with a couple of twelve-year-old boys. We were kicking a tennis ball against the lamppost, which had been there when I left in 1970, when my mother appeared at the door.
‘Tony!’ she called loudly, standing on the step, with her arm crossed against her chest. She was wearing a pinafore over a print frock, and I’ll swear she had that astrakhan hat on her head that she wore in the fifties. She stood there for a long moment, then said sharply, ‘In now’.
Then she turned around and went into the house. I, of course, followed her. As I walked across the pavement to the door, not too quickly, because I did not want to completely lose all my pride in front of the boys, I heard one of them say,
‘Where’s Tone gone Elvis?’
His mate said in a matter of fact voice, ‘His Mom said he’s got to goo in an have his dinner’.
Neither expressed any surprise at an old man being ordered about by his old Mom. Some things never change.
Tony Stack-Hawkley Email email@example.com
Hello Cobber Tony. I read your comments on the webb site 15/1/2003.First I hope that you are
in good health. you stated that you lived at 48.Bacchus Road,were was your house situated,please confirm.
The recollection of Bacchus Road from Lodge Rd Ronnie Swains garage.Co-op.Jones Coffee House.
Family Goulds,Daddy Eagles newsagents.Moulds family Ada Winbush.Richardson Butchers.Pawnbrooker.Two
passage ways.Browns Fish& chip shop.Pardos Ladies &Child wear.Sweet Shop.Next shop had two different
owners, the first one Grocery shop,allways part of going to school,call in for 1d worth of broken biscuits.the next owner was Mr Priest Electtical store,where you bought parts for the radio,and he recharged acumulators for the radio.next door the Post Office the Manager Mr Westwood & Wife and children on corner Preston Rd. On the other Corner General Shop.next four or five Houses,in one of those lived a school mate named Dennis Greenfield,he became one of our cycle crashers when we formed a speedway team of racers.continuing Markby Rd Corner Ladies Hairdressing Shop Named Lees.On the other Corner the Birches Greengrocery Shop,sons Sam.Billy.Fred. Five more houses then Corner Willes Road Shoe repair shop.on the other side the Newsagent Shop. could the house you lived in,past the shop and before the embankment. If I have failed to reconize were you lived I will have to start the other side of the road with names and shops.
I hope this brings back memories.
Best wishes Colin Mills, E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
WINSON GREEN CARNIVAL 29 /03 /03
Winson Green Carnival (All Saints Hospital) used to hold a Open Day in the early sixty's, at which a lot of the local people used to go on to the grounds to play all sorts games and side shows . Then they stopped for some time. In the early-Eighties the head of the All Saints Hospital league of friends Hilary Britain, wanted to start the open days again to try to bring the whole community together.
She approached the local vicar from Bishop Latimer Church the Reverend Blashford, and the local social services department, she also got in touch with the local residents' groups such as Hockley Action Group.
This is where I became involved and the Winson Green Carnival was started, we held weekly meeting in the vicarage. We had to raise money by running jumble sales and cakes sales, so that we could pay act's to come and perform on the day of the Carnival . The first carnival was put on in 1982. It was decided that as well as the events on the hospital grounds we would hold various other competitions off the grounds, so small groups were set up to organise other events. Myself and the Reverend Blashford organised five-a-side football tournaments, and the pram race around the local pubs. With the help of the social services we held five a side tournaments at various locations in the area, sometimes up to 20 to 30 sets of teams turned up, so not to be too busy on the day it was decided to hold knockout tournaments so that on the day of the carnival we would have just the finals of the under 8 under 12 and 13 * 16 year-olds. The pram race was held on the Saturday morning of the carnival round to some other local public houses , it started at the Golden Eagle then down Bacchus Road to the Grapes, round into Park Road to the Soho Tavern, then up to the Railway Tavern, then along Norton Street and down Lodge Road to the Devonshire Arms and on to the finished at the Talbot.
Anyone who took part in the pram race could raise money for any charities they wished, no money was given to the carnival from this event,it was held for fun . Some of the contestants dressed as babies and mothers, other's in other fancy dress, everybody enjoyed themselves and a Shield was given to the eventual winner.
I took part in the carnival from 1982 to 1985, it started off small and became big by the time I left, it was taken over by Jeff Rivers of the summerfield community centre, and the Carnival was moved to Summerfield Park, on Winson Green Road.
From Rod Scott Email: Roderick@scott3650.fsnet.co.uk
The two photo's are of the pram race, there must be others, do you have any????
HOCKLEY ACTION GROUP
Hockley Action Group was started in ? to help the people in the area with any problem's they had, when Winson Green was being rebuilt. Part of the group helped the youth by runing a disco at Benson Road School, one for 7 to 11 year old's one for 12 to 16 year old's. When the disco became to big for the school hall, we had to move to the West Indian Federation on Winson Green Road. They also took some of the local children on holiday to Wales as well as running the community program.
Mr's I.A.Downes was the sponsor of Hockley Action Group,who ran the community program, Mick Harnett was the head of the landscape work force basted in Norton Street.
The group photo taken in Steward Street School this was the main base for the whole program, the landscape part worked mainly on old Railway Land from Abbey Street to Benson Road (G.W.R.), the building section worked in lot of place's including the Church on Lodge Road corner of Lees Street.
The Landscape section did most of it's work on the railway land. Most of the work was to clear away the rubbish which had been tipped by fly tipper's and by some of the people who lived in the area. One of the biggest job's was to take down the platforms brick by brick, so we could clean them up to be used by The Black Country Museum for the building's and foot path's.
We also cleaned up a lot of land around the area and put up "tripper rail" to stop fly tipper's on land in Abbey Street and Park Road, and from the timber yard on Lodge Road to the bridge on Abbey Street.
We also replaced the fencing on the railway land and cut down old tree's and weed's and put in a road way to drive our lorry and dumper truck, we also had to clean out all the brick joint's of weed's, and repoint them on all the bridge's from Abbey Street to Benson Road.
The Building section worked on bigger job's like the church on Lodge Road, they had to plaster and paint most of the room's plus hallway, replace door's and some of the wooden panels,and repoint the brick work. One of the other job's was to refurbish a old house between Tew Park Road and Victoria Road on Bacchus Road, to be used as a community house.They also did a building in Ladywood to be used by the youth as a meeting place. I do not know much more about the building section as I worked on the landscape section.
From Rod Scott Email: Roderick@scott3650.fsnet.co.uk
Foundry Road Junior and Infants School 16/02/03
My sister and I went to Foundry Road school junior and infants, later my brother John, the teachers where kind and showed interest in you, the only person I do remember at school was the head mistress Miss Mole she wore dark rimmed glasses. She used to walk about with her hands tucked under her arm pits, very difficult to do, if she came your way you shut up immediately she was terrifying at least to me she was. The classrooms were situated all around the hall, the doors to the classrooms had four small glass panels the bottom two of these had obscure glass and the top two was clear glass. When Miss Mole did her rounds to make sure the classes was doing their work she would stand on tip toes peering over the obscure glass to look through the plain glass, if she saw anything she did not like she would burst in and without speaking to the teacher she would go for the child she was after, it happened to me once, god did she frighten me, and I was doing nothing it seemed to be my turn to be picked on, the teacher had to console me afterwards. If she did catch you doing anything wrong she would bend you across her knee and smack your leg by pulling up the boys short trousers I'm not sure if she smacked the girls, in those days boys wore short trousers to junior schools, it was not till I got to the senior school did I wear long trousers.
This is the main entrance to Foundry Road School as it is today. I notice they have had the playground block paved, in my day this was tarmac. They have added a canopy over the front door Trees have been planted to give it some atmosphere, as you can see it is a very old building and still very much in use today. The head Teachers Room was above the entrance
Our mom and dad had to work while we were at school, when my sister and I came home from school on our own we would find the front door key in the outside loo in a hole, it was quite normal in those days money was tight.
We would have chores to do before mom rushed in from work and started the tea, I would have to light a fire using paper screwed up wood I would have chopped the previous weekend and coal, I would then using a sheet of paper against the chimney flue to get it to draw, often this sheet would go up in flames, this fire had to be lit summer and winter dad worked in a foundry and he would feel the cold no matter what type of weather it was, how the houses never burned down beats me. Mom would come in smelling of suds from the factory she worked in. Suds were the liquid used for the metal she worked in at the factory. Most women in the war and a long time afterwards in factories, I can still remember that smell some 40 years later.
A Boy and his first pair of Long Trousers 16/02/03
When I was a youngster living in Winson Green, the purchase and wearing of your first pair of long trousers was a major event. It marked the anthropological changeover from being a boy to taking one of the first steps towards manhood. I did not look forward to this time in my life, for being short of stature, I knew that I would get a razzing from my playmates at school when I appeared in my very first pair of ‘longies’. Mom had bought the long flannel trousers from Peacocks on the ‘Main’, as that part of Soho Road was called where the shops congregated. Auntie Chris, who had a treadle driven Singer sewing machine, had cut the legs of the trousers, because they were too long, and hemmed the ends to suit my shorter legs. She had measured me in front of my mother and my laughing brother. He is younger than me and was therefore safe from derision for at least for another two years. Auntie Chris arrived with the doctored long trousers in a brown paper bag and advised me to go upstairs to my bedroom and try them on in case they needed some minor adjustments. Mom, Auntie Chris and my brother waited in the back room for my grand entrance. I tentatively tiptoed down the tortuous wooden stairs and held onto the rickety wooden rail that was held on to the wall by only one desperate screw. I opened the door at the bottom of the stairs and whooped with as much bravado as I could muster in this critical situation in my life, ‘Da Da!’
Auntie Chris shouted delightedly at her handiwork, ‘Oh, they fit ‘pearfict’, and don’t they make him look olda’.
Mom wisely said nothing, and gazed out into the back yard as though deep in contemplation of this major event. My brother burst into hysterical laughter. ‘Yow look a right prat Tone, yow look like a little old man’, he said.
Mom absent mindedly smacked him on the back of the head with her open palm, and said, ‘Don’t swear Michael. Yes they’ll do, our Chris’.
After the performance I went upstairs and changed back into my comfortable shorts. I lay on my bed looking at the ceiling thinking how I could delay this terrible event tomorrow and the resulting embarrassment. I turned over the situation in my mind. I didn’t mind parading in front of my own family, but going to school and walking through scores of boys in the playground, all laughing at me, was another matter. I knew that I could not delay growing up and as a man I would look stupid in boy's shorts. I came to the conclusion that there was no way out of wearing those bloody long trousers.
Monday morning came. I put on my long trousers and Michael sporadically laughed at me as we got ready for school. It was pouring down with rain and my shoes had holes in the soles, and cardboard would not keep out the water. Mom said I had better put on my Wellingtons. Not being experienced with long trouser, I wondered if I should wear them outside of the ‘wellies’ or push them down in the top and in my socks. I decided to push them into the top of the boots. So off I went to school in the rain, with my brother by my side. I approached Handsworth New Road Secondary Modern School and looked through the railings with some apprehension. No one was there that I knew, so I strode into the playground in my long trousers and Wellington boots with an assumed nonchalant air. Because it was raining, the Prefects let us into school and I sat down at my desk so that I could hide my legs.
During that momentous day, I was ready and waiting with a practiced retort for any comment concerning my long strides, but not one schoolboy or teacher mentioned my change in apparel and my consequent move into manhood. Not even Mr Archer, with his twinkling blue eyes that reminded me of Alan Ladd the film star, said a word about my long trousers. All morning I savoured being a man and imagined that I had become, or looked, somewhat taller, and perhaps my voice had started to deepen just a little, and maybe there was the beginning of some whiskers on my face. By dinnertime I had forgotten all about my sudden transformation into manhood. I was galloping around the asphalted playground, with all the other boys. Because I was only eleven and we were cowboys, and I was Hopalong Cassidy (in my ‘wellies’) the famous American cowboy who was on at the ABC Regal on Saturday mornings, and I was not concerned with such trivialities as long or short trousers. I had a posse to run and some rustlers to find.
Tony Stack-Hawkley Email email@example.com
Barbers Shop 15/01/03
One day Mom said that I had to go to the Barbers Shop in Handsworth New Rd on the corner of Foundry Road, for a haircut. My hair was always straight, fine, greasy, and grew very quickly. Auntie Chris said my hair had a natural shine to it, with an auburn tinge and it wasn’t greasy like the Barber said. Mom only sent me to the Barbers when it was desperate and I could hardly see, and walked into things, because it cost one and sixpence. The Barber wanted to see the money before he would cut even one hair. ‘I can’t put the hair back if you don’t have the money’, he would say, and then laugh with all the other smelly grotty old men who sat there waiting and blowing smoke in my eyes. Waste of time them being there, I call it, most of them were half-bald anyway.
I hated that Barber. I sat very still, or he would shout at me and threaten to throw me out of the shop. On the table there were boring magazines that men picked up and threw them down again, without even reading them. The Barber didn’t care if he kept you waiting if you were a boy, and if a man came in he would always do him first, even if you had been there for hours and it was your turn. I used to whistle while I was waiting, and the Barber would tell me to "stop that tuneless whistle". Well, what did he know, my whistle wasn’t tuneless, I always knew the tune, whatever it was.
I used to whistle in bed at home as well. I had to sleep with my brother, because there were not enough beds in our house. My teacher, Mr Berryman said that because our family didn’t have enough beds, we were probably ‘impoverished’, whatever that meant. I always thought that we were Catholic, except Gran who was Church of England, but sometimes went to the Chapel. I hated sleeping with my brother Mick. Sometime he would talk in his sleep and roll about and hit me in the left ear, and he wet the bed. He used to tell me to stop whistling in bed as well. ‘Our Mom’, he would moan ‘Tell our Tone to stop whistling’. Mom would then shout through the partitioned wooden wall, ‘Tony, stop that whistling’. Michael was always Mom's favourite that's why he had a vest in the winter. The excuse was that he had a 'weak chest' but I never believed that. I would stop for a while, then start whistling softly again, when I thought they were asleep. Mom would only tell me to stop whistling once, because it was too much trouble to get out of her warm bed to come and box my ears. Dad was in the army, but he never hit me once when he was at home. Or even when he was on leave from the Army. Once, when he came home on leave, and Mom shouted to him, as soon as he came through the door, ‘Bill, hit him he’s been a little sod’. Dad was all brown because he had come from some place called Egypt. He didn't hit me but he did give me some sweets in a tin. Dad never hit me, not even when Mick and I were walking along the railway bridge wall in Bacchus Road after school, and Mick fell onto a train's goods carriage, and went to Crewe railway station on the top of the canvas. The police brought him back in a big black police car with the bell jangling as it came down Preston Road. Mom was ashamed at Mick being with the police and said it was my fault, because I didn’t tell her that he had fallen into the goods train and had gone to Crewe. I thought that if I didn’t tell anybody, no one would miss him and I could have all the bed.
Anyway, there I was in the Barber's waiting and waiting for the last old man to be clipped, when the Barber asked the old bloke if he wanted any French letters. I knew that the Germans were in France, so the old bloke must have been a spy. And the barber was whispering, so it must have been a secret, about these French letters . Then as I watched out of the corner of my eye, pretending to look at those boring old magazines, the Barber slipped a French Letter spy message in a brown paper bag into the old bloke’s coat. Very sneaky he was, so I knew he was up to something. I said nothing, but as soon as I had had my haircut I was going to tell that fat sergeant who keeps telling me to stop loitering. I wasn’t loitering. I was just hanging about outside the Winson Green Picture Palace asking someone to take me in because it was an A film and you had to very old to see the film or go in with an old person. Well, I forgot all about telling the Police Sergeant about the spy in the Barbershop, with the letter to the French. Because the Barber told me, when he had finished cutting my hair, to get my Mom to comb it with a fine tooth comb, because I had nits in my hair. Bloody cheek.
Tony Stack-Hawkley Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Barbers Shop (cont.) 02/04/04
I too remember the Barber, Mr Smith - can't remember his first name - everybody called him Smithy. He walked with a stiff leg. I've since learned that this was the result of arthritic hip, which, at the time, because it couldn't be replaced, was fused.
Other than him keeping you waiting until he'd cleared the shop of adults, no matter where you were in the queue, I don't recall him being particularly nasty to kids. Grumpy, yes! I put this down to his arthritic leg giving him jip. Then again, he never told me I'd got nits! (I supposed that accounted for him keeping his scissors and combs in beakers of disinfectant.)
However miserable he was, I always thought his wife looked twice as cranky. I'm sure her face could've curdled milk. She ran the women's' dept on the right as you walked in from the street. I have no personal experience but I'm pretty sure this was where the French letters were stocked. I'd often see some geezer whisper to him and he'd slip out into that section and return with a plain brown paper bag.
As far as I'm aware, they didn't have any kids - a result having all those French letter hanging around? - probably a good thing, as both Smithy and his wife appeared to have problems relating to young people.
I can recall the first time my father took me for a sheering. I didn't have to wait that day `cos I was with my dad who was also having a trim. He seemed to have one every time a hair showed under his trilby. As were most kids of my size, I was sat on a board placed across the arms of the chair.
When I started going on my own (and waiting forever) I recall Smithy having a promotional scheme for kids: He would give a voucher per haircut, to be exchanged at a shop on the corner of Foundry Road and Franklin Street, for a penny ice-lolly.
I guess, as Tony's a bit older than me, customer entertainment had improved when I started patronising Smithy's. Besides the old magazines, there was a radio, which only ever seemed to broadcast football results, and a tropical fish tank. Then there were the budgies that flew around the place crapping on all and sundry. Whenever anybody came in they had to shut the door quickly to shouts of, `Watch the birds!' The barber was extremely anxious of his treasured pets seeking freedom in the wilds of Winson Green.
Yes, Smithy loved those birds. The long waits I had there gave me the opportunity to watch him for hours. As he dragged his leg around each victim, massacring the their heads with electric clippers, he'd mutter to a budgie perched on his shoulder, `Who's a pretty boy then?' and then to his victim, `Something for the weekend, sir?'
I've often wondered what sort of woman would be attracted to someone with hair styled by Smithy. I mean he could do any style you liked as long as it was short back and sides.
As an extra, though, he did offer a singe to seal the ends of the severed hairs to prevent you catching cold after losing so much head insulation. This involved passing a lighted taper over the customer's scalp. I imagine these days the practice would be frowned on for health and safety reasons, unless a sink full of water was convenient to dunk the victim's head in, should the singe go further than intended.
The first time I deviated from the short back and sides was for a Crew Cut. Because this was so controversial, Smithy wouldn't perform the operation, until I had a note off my mother saying she approved. The next problem I had was getting a Boston cut, or square back. This time I had to show him a picture from a magazine to explain what I wanted.
In the end, as my need for more sophistication grew, I had to seek out another establishment more capable of meeting my demands. Masons' Salon was just off Winson Green Road, in Peel Street (or was it Aberdeen Street). There you could get a blow-wave or, if you were really poncy, your hair shampooed in something other than Lifebuoy soap.
The last time I saw Smithy was about twenty years ago, outside the PDSA on Hagley Road. He was leading in a clipped, white poodle, even older than himself. He caught my eye `cos he looked familiar and I wondered why someone who could afford a ruby studded collar for his dog, would take it to a charity for treatment. Then, when I noticed him (the owner) dragging his leg, the penny dropped and I realised who it was. So, I concluded that those rubies weren't real and he'd never earned enough from all the tanners I'd paid him to afford a private vet - poor old sod!
Copyright© Paul Holmes 2004
Appendix: I have a sister who has lived away from the `old end' far longer than me. As a test, I drew her attention to the photograph accompanying Tony's article, asking her what she remembered of it. She came up with the following:
“That's the corner of Handsworth New Road where we find the barber, Cecil (anything for the weekend sir) Smith (?), and walking along towards our old alma mater, we pass Dalton's Garage on the left and Bannister & Thatcher, the chemists on the right.
Actually, we would have already passed the butcher's shop which was almost opposite the barber's. This is where Johnny Moss worked. All the girls thought he was gorgeous so I was delighted when I snared him after I left school but, alas, he was a lot more tasty viewed through the butcher's window.”
Well, I'm not sure she got Smithy's name right, as I think it was something like Bert. If my memory serves me correctly, Cecil Smith was the vicar of Bishop Latimer's on Handsworth New Road. She also has the garage wrong, as it's Dolman's, not “Dolton's”.
Snapshots from the Green 15/01/03
‘The Grapes’ Photo courtesy of Andrew Maxam "Time Please".
I remember as a child that my family and I lived in Bacchus Road for a time, in a house that stood back from the road with four other cottages. It was near the end of the street, under the Railway Bridge and past the Grapes public house. There was an Anderson air raid shelter dug deep into our garden, with earth full of weeds piled on the top of it. Most nights, there was an air raid and we all had to get out of our warm beds and get into the cold air raid shelter. It was a very uncomfortable refuge and intensely cold in the winter. Sometimes, as you felt your way down the wooden steps and stepped onto the dirt floor, there were a few inches of water that instantly froze your feet. One never knew who would be inside this imperfect government sanctuary to greet the family. It could be our Auntie Chris who was paying Mom a visit and was too frightened to go home yet, because of the noisy bombing, and had popped in. Or the family from next door might be crowded down there sitting on the bunk beds with their boisterous children. I never knew why they came to our shelter, as they had a shelter of their own; perhaps they felt more comfortable in a small crowd. Sometimes big Grandad Joe would be there, sozzled, because instead of going on home up the hill to number forty eight Bacchus Road, he had turned left at the pub door and staggered down the hill, because it was easier, from the ‘Grapes’ public house to our house. One night the bombing had started early and we were in the shelter listening to the bomber concert outside. I had heard Grandad coming down the path and I went to the top off the wooden steps and tentatively opened the door to greet him. He was standing at the entrance to the shelter an imposing six feet two inches tall. It was Saturday and so he was dressed in his best dark blue serge suit, with gold chain and domino medallions dangling across a taut waistcoat. He had his small bowler hat, set at a jaunty angle on his white-cropped head. On his feet were pointed highly polished black boots that he only wore on Saturdays. He stood there an imposing figure silhouetted against what we called a ‘Bombers Moon’ sky. Ignoring the flock of German bombers he was furiously shaking his stylised walking stick at the German bombers as they boomed past, ignoring the hail of bombs.
‘Bastard Jerries ’ he was shouting, waving his hickory stick,
Then I abruptly had to stand to one side as he swayed, tottered, and fell past me, down the wooden steps and landed right on top of Mrs Hardshaft, who had popped into out air raid shelter. She could not move under the tall, heavy, dead weight, of Grandad, who was very drunk. She commenced to scream very loudly until Mom and I rolled him off her.
No one ever told Gran of the happenings of that night. Tony Stack-Hawkley Email email@example.com
Memories from Australia 06/01/03
I have commented once before on your website and find that I have to comment again. I spent a long long time going through it, and what a splendid site it is. I particularly liked looking at the photos, new and old. I found that the photo at Handsworth New Road Secondary Modern School marked as me, was not me. Probably because I am quite short I was placed sitting in the front row. What a handsome young man I was in those days. I then found myself thinking about the old days and remembering and trying to remember names of people I once knew. Like Pat Bayliss whom I had a crush on when I was about eleven, she lived in Kent Street North. And I recalled the time me and a boy called Billy used to wait on the corner of the street in the hope of getting a glimpse of her. Then there was Maureen Dobson ,who's mother much to my disgust, made me get her daughters skipping rope off the lamp post, where I had so cruelly placed it, There was a boy in my road,
Preston Rd, who was a great football player, his name was Eric Hadfield. I was very envious of him and his skill at football. I once took the girl next door to the ' Winson Green Picture Palace', I had a temperature and was not very well, her name was Christine Roberts she had a sister called Nita. This started a train of thoughts about waiting outside the pictures and asking people to take us in, because the film was A rated. 'Take two in please Mister or Mrs' we used to say in a plaintive voice. Opposite me lived Tony Hynett and his sister Valerie we used to play kick the can and cricket against the lamp post. We played in the streets until it got dark in the long summer nights and them some. We were never in any danger because we had every mother in Preston Road looking out for us. There was a Post Office on the corner and a Fish and Chip shop in Bacchus Rd. Next to the Post Office was a shop were we got our accumulators charged for our battery. I was in the Boy Scouts, the Boys Brigade, and the Air Training Corps at one time or another, perhaps this was the start of my wander lust and the reason I finished up in Australia. Regards Tony Stack-Hawkley Email firstname.lastname@example.org
A VISIT BACK HOME
Visiting Birmingham on Saturday we decided to have a meander home via my wife June's place of birth Kent Street North. Through the Jewellery quarter and down Warstone Lane we passed the cemetery on the right and down to the lights at Icknield Street. Turning right and then left into Pitsford Street with the side of the railway on our right eventually we came to All Saints School (June's old school) a very run down and eyesore place now. A scrap yard abutting the so-called playground now looks a sad place when considering all the childhood fun and games. June still has the good memories of which can now only brighten up her thoughts of this demoralizing place.
Continuing on to Lodge Road we turned left trying to recall the times we had walked this way. On reaching the bridge we could tell we are in the right place by the old factories on the right. However on the left the old asylum buildings (Nurses Home) had disappeared leaving piles of debris in it's place. Even the old asylum wall had been demolished opening out into a new housing estate, no more open space were the old patients walked in the sunshine, just new houses springing up instead of trees and grass. We turned into Kent Street North (the street that June was born in) to which she remarked, “it looks smaller than I remember it”, there was no recognizable thing for her to recall where her house used to stand, new houses having replaced the old. Turning left where the Alec pub once stood into and down Devonshire Street then Avenue we turned right and under the bridge in Musgrave Street finding burnt out cars and rubbish all over the place. Our nostalgic journey had now turned into a nightmare and disappointment for June, thinking of all the old residents who had pride in their neighborhood, they would have turned turn in there graves. And for all the people who can recall the old place, please support Ted Rudge and his website. Let him have your stories and photographs, and in our minds we can still share and recall the days when this area was a good place to live in.
I can still remember how it was and I was only a visitor courting the girl I fell in love with and married, June Ivy Chapman of 15 Kent Street North.
John Houghton www.astonbrook-through-astonmanor.co.uk
A TRIP TO SCHOOL
It was indeed a long walk from Abbey St to Benson Road School. My brother and I walked via Park Road.
As we turned out of Abbey St, if the wind was blowing in the right direction we would be greeted by the smell of newly baked bread. Scribbons' Bakery was in Goode St, Just one along from Abbey St. As we approached Norton St, there it was again, that delicious, tormenting odour of hot bread. This time from Bradfords Bakery. At the bottom of Benson Road, opposite Wrensons, and couple of doors up, was a small bakery. The aromas we walked through on our way to school were enough to start any kid salivating. If we were lucky, we, my brother and I would have a penny, this would buy each of us a halfpenny misshape from the Benson Road bakery. That man sold so many misshapes to the kids that I think he must have made them misshapen on purpose! In the winter the big decision was whether eat them, or to hold them cupped between the hands as warmers. I remember once dropping mine into a puddle, wiping it down my coat, and eating it!
Past the school, across a small road (Allens Road), was a house where the front room has been converted into a greengrocers. The old fellow there, always wearing black mittens, used to sell the kids an 'apeth or penurth of swede Grated up and down bottom teeth it lasted longer than bread, and tasted delicious.
Throughout the Summer my brother and I would spend Sundays at Handsworth Park. We walked there too . We would spend the day beneath the willows, fishing the pond for sticklebacks. Our equipment was a fishing net made out of an old lisle stocking, and a string handled jam jar It was the hot, long, journeys home that I remember most. The water from my jar full of "tiddlers" would be slopping down my legs. Tears would be flowing because most of my fishes would be floating dead at the top of the jar, and my brother, four years older than I, would be urging me to " Walk faster, or we'll never get home" from Doreen Hudson nee Jones
Doreen lived in Abbey Street 1938 to 1967 went to Benson and Handsworth New Road Schools now living in New Zealand and would like to contact any old acquaintances Doreen's Email is email@example.com
**************************************************************************************************************************** THE GREEN
By John Houghton
A tale of up the green and down the flat
It will tell you all about this and that.
A district of much diversity and life
The Union workhouse and all it's strife.
An infamous prison with a Victorian facade
Where life inside was more than hard
The history of its time can be seen
Land criss crossed by railways and canals
Sunday all the churches ring their bells
Today you all can see what it has been
From Icknield Street to Dudley Road
And what's in between makes the green
Factories in abundance of many trades
Working class folk not afraid of hard days
Shopping for all your needs down the flat
Calling into the shops for some of this and that
From a pair of shoes to a joint of meat
Crying babies expecting some little treat
A cauldron of life mixing a different breed
It's all required for a new generation's to succeed
Don Street and Private John Joseph Heath
no. 15/1594, 14th Battalion / 1st Birmingham Pals
Royal Warwickshire Regiment, 13th February 1887 - 29th August 1916. The story began with a letter written by my grandfather to my Mother in the early 1980s, after reading `All My Days', the autobiography of Kathleen Dayus, a Birmingham woman who grew up in a very similar environment to Granddad. His letter continued: “I was born in 1911, and my father was killed in that war, in the Battle of the Somme in 1916. My mother was left with 5 children: Auntie Kay, Uncle George, Uncle Bill, Uncle Tommy, and of course myself (age 5). (She re-married later as you know) So you can imagine the hard times being with us the same as Kathleen Dayus the author depicts - they certainly were! We as a family never went Hop-picking - thank God! But we knew of it and many families in our area were quite familiar with the proceedings related to it. I do remember, bread and lard, and bread and dripping and fish and chips for 3d. We used to get a penny on a Monday and 2d on a Saturday from our Mother's pension, and run anyone's errands for a few coppers. With the 2d on a Saturday we used to go to the afternoon matinee at Winson Green Picture Palace and we used to think it wonderful and terrifically exciting as kids, but if we spent any of the 2d we'd had it, couldn't go in. I remember crying on one occasion, because I'd bought a pennyworth of shrimps, and one of my DAD'S army mates gave me 2d to go in.”
The trail begins with the author's maternal great-great grandfather, James Heath. James was born in London. The dates of his birth differ, but it seems to have been around the year 1847. On the 25th October 1868, James Heath, bachelor and gunmaker of Newtown Row Birmingham, married Emma Turner, a spinster also of Newtown Row. Their ages are given as 21 and 19 respectively. He is listed as the son of James Heath gunfinisher, she as the daughter of James Turner, goldsmith and chainmaker. The service took place at St Stephen's Church in the Parish of St Stephen's. They were married by P. Reynolds LLB and their witnesses were William Perceval and Fanny Saunders.
James and Emma seem to have lived with Emma's parents for some period of their marriage. In the 1881 census, they are living at 41 St George Street, Birmingham, where James Turner, 50 years old and born in Handsworth, Stafford, is the head of the household. His occupation is a goldsmith. His wife Elizabeth Turner, 49 years old and a native of Birmingham is a `press worker'. Their son Samuel was 15 years old, born in Birmingham and was a `scholar'.
James and Emma Heath appear to have had three daughters, all of whom were born in Birmingham and are listed as being at school: Lizzie, 12 years old, Rose, 9 and Emily aged 5.
John Joseph Heath was born on the 13th February 1887 at 30, Castle Street, in the Hillfields area of Coventry, son of James Heath, a bicycle machinist and Emma Heath formerly Turner. His birth was registered on the 24th March 1887. The area of Hillfields was the site of many bicycle factories, with the Singer Cycle Works three streets away. By the time of the 1891 census, the family had established their own household at 89 Pope Street, Birmingham. James Heath, whose age is recorded as 46 years, is a `machinist'. His wife Emma is 39. Their daughter Roseanna Heath is still living with the family at the age of 17, and she now has three younger brothers: James aged 6 and John aged 4, both born in Coventry, and three-month old William. John's childhood seems to have been spent here in Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter, a closely inhabited area of workshops and housing to the northwest of Birmingham City Centre. By the time of the 1901 census, the family had relocated to Back 1, Lower Darwin Street. Emma Heath was by now a widow, and her age was given here as 48. Emily Heath had married Henry Daly, who was born in 1879 in Birmingham. Her date of birth appears here to be 1876, and her occupation is a bicycle polisher. James Heath is also living in the family home; he is a single man born in 1879 and listed here as a brass worker. John Joseph Heath is 14 years old and is listed as an errand boy. He married Harriet Barnsley at the Parish Church of St Chrysostom in the County of Birmingham on 1st March 1908. He was 20 years old, and a bachelor. His address is given as 29 Don Street, and his father, James Heath, a gun maker, was by this time deceased. Harriet was born on the 10th August 1889, and christened on the 25th of August 1889. She was daughter of Frederick and Mary Jane Barnsley of `The Pleck', Park Road, Birmingham, and her address is 13 Back 48 Talbot Street. Her father's occupation was listed as a `striker'. The Curate, WW Price married them, and their witnesses were Arthur West and Florence Whitworth. The family began to grow quickly. Their first child, Frederick John was born on August 4th 1908 and christened on September 2nd. The family were living at 6 Hawthorne Berrys (?) Street, and John Heath's occupation is given as a `labourer'. George Sydney, born November 28th 1909 and christened on December 8th was born when the family were at 1 Back 40 Kent Street North and his father's occupation is a `machinist'. Charles Frederick was born on March 11th 1911, and christened on March 29th. John and Harriet Heath were living at 2/25 Don Street, and John Heath's occupation is a `hawker'. (Charles Frederick Heath was the author's maternal grandfather.) Other children followed John, born April 30th 1912 and christened May 15th of 27 Don Street. Father's occupation listed as s labourer; William Edward, born May 24th 1913 and christened June 4th, address 41 Don Street and father's occupation listed as a hawker. Norah Margaret, born August 26th 1914 and christened 9th September, 3/9 Don Street. Father's occupation is a labourer; Thomas, born March 26th 1916 and christened April 12 1916. 3/9 Don Street. Father's Occupation is a labourer. This may indicate that John Heath joined the Army after Thomas' birth.
The “Birmingham Pals” in the Great War The 14th (Service) Battalion was raised in Birmingham at the instigation of the Lord Mayor. The Battalion also became known as the 1st Birmingham Battalion. The 14th (Service) / 1st Birmingham Battalion formed part of the 13th Brigade which was part of the 5th Division. Other Battalions that served in the 13th Brigade with the 14th Battalion of the Warwicks were the 2nd Battalion King's Own Scottish Borderers and the 1st Battalion Royal West Kent Regiment. The first Colonel was Colonel Sir John Barnsley who raised the battalion between the 7th and the 14th September 1914. On the 17th October 1914, he handed over command to Colonel G White Lewis who commanded until the battalion left Codford for France on 21st November 1915, when the battalion came under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel L Murray, (later DSO.)
Joining the Birmingham Pals Each of the City battalions raised a reserve company during their training period. When the three city battalions assembled at Wensleydale to continue their training in June 1915, the huts at Sutton Park became vacant. However, men were joining the three reserve companies all the time, due to the fact that the 1st and 2nd Birmingham Pals especially, were losing many men due to them being commissioned as officers into other regiments. Around 600 of the original volunteers to the city battalions were commissioned during their training period. The criteria of being a non-manual worker was dropped to keep the reserve companies up to strength. These reserve companies then amalgamated to form an 18th Reserve Battalion. Men who had enlisted into the reserve companies prior to this amalgamation kept the suffix of the battalion they originally joined. Thus men in the 14th had the suffix 14/**** and the 15th had 15/****. It seems that Pte Heath did not enlist in November 1915, but more likely sometime during May - June of 1915. Simon Fielding firstname.lastname@example.org
Was it the RAILWAY Station on the Winson Green Road or was it the Railway station on Benson Road
British Railways (ex LMS) (Jubilee) 4-6-0, number 45647 "STURDEE" on a Wolverhampton-Birmingham run, passing Winson Green Station in August 1957 Photo from Mac Joseph
This entry stared the long debate below
You asked if the railway station in your photos was Benson Road station or Lodge Road station
(SHOULD READ WINSON GREEN ROAD STATION).
It was definatly Benson Road station. We lived at the very last house on the left at the top of Devonshire Street, and every day we would walk down Devonshire Street, along Devonshire Avenue, and up over that railway bridge to Benson Street School. I hope this helps.linda fenney email@example.com
The controversy over the photo of Winson Green Railway Station, I was having a word with a friend of mine (who wants to be nameless) sent me this photo of Soho & Winson Green Station, which he took in 1971.
I hope this photo clears up the misunderstanding.
I attended Handsworth New Road Secondary Modern from 1955 to 1958 and when we came out of school we used to train-spot on the Winson Green Road after 4-00pm waiting for the WBL(Wolverhampton,Birmingham London) and the Glasgow to Birmingham trains.
I lived at 14 Dugdale Street.
Regards Mike Pinkney
The Jubilee is, indeed, slowing down as it approaches Harborne Junction (Northbrook Street cutiing!), and what we see, still, today, here is the reason for the apparent 'bowing' of the track where the old island platform once was, as in the Photo.
You see, they DO NOT re-lay track onto old foundations from bridge anchors/recesses and platform posts..!
Philip Crumpton firstname.lastname@example.org
Don't understand the controversy about which railway station this is. Unless somebody took an LMS loco and placed it on a GWR line it has to be Winson Green, not Benson Road. Equally so for anyone who was around in those days they would instantly realise the train is inbound to New Street. The background is Winson Green Road with Heath Street a little way of to the left (obvioulsly not in the photograph) and, if you came out of the station up the stairs/tunnel shown on the photo and turned right you finish up going towards the "nick" and the "Green" itself. Patrick Limacher email@example.com
100% Winson Green Road Ex LMS - The station closed in 1957 but the line is still very busy.
The Ex GWR station was'Soho & Winson Green' on Benson
Road; closed in 1972. This line reopened in the 1990s being
used by Central Trains & the Metrolink.
Ray Norton firstname.lastname@example.org
re:The mystery identity of the station (Winson Green or Benson Road). Am I being unduly simplistic here? Surely the fact that the photo in question includes the nameboard for the station actually in shot on the platform clearly indicates that the station is indeed Winson Green? Mike Doyle email@example.com
"I lived in Victor Rd and was a keen train spotter (in the pre-diesel days). We were lucky as we seemed to be surrounded by railways of all descriptions.
The station in the photo is on Winson Green Rd - I am absolutely certain of it, being a frequent visitor to both it and Benson Rd. A huge clue is in the engine and number plate. The jubilee class engine was part of the LMS stock. Winson Green station was LMS only and Benson Rd was exclusively GWR in those days. "
All the best Keith Devaney Keith.Devaney@amersham.com
I lived in Benson Rd 1961-1973opposite the railway station that is definately the railway station on Benson Rd . Me and my bros used to dare each other to run along the the bridge without getting caught the houses to the right of the picture is where we lived the third one along, my bedroom was the 'attic' I used to watch the trains from the skylight and play in the yard, I went to Benson Rd School and then to Handsworth New Rd Girls School. I am so glad I found this site tears poured as I read through the pages. I also remember the air show at Summerfield Park my dad took us for the day out will get photos of mother to send to you I will go to Benson Rd railway station and take a photo to compare keep up the good work
Christel Haddon (Prokowski) Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The photo is actually the station in Winson Green Road, not the one in Benson Road. Look through to the other side of the road bridge -- its far too open to be Benson Road, where the tracks were in a really deep
brick-wall lined cutting. If it was the Benson Rd station we'd be able to see the Bacchus Rd bridge.
I think I was in Bobby Barnett's class at Benson Road School and I remember quite clearly the incident where he jumped out of the train because it didn't stop at Soho & Winson Green station.
Lower down the same page, I also notice the photo of the Talbot Inn in Talbot Street. My mother and her parents and her brother and sister lived at the Talbot from 1914 to 1920. Mom's father was Ernest Arthur
Neale and he was the licensee of the pub. Arthur's wife (my Nan) was Frances (known as Fanny) and she was originally from the Isle of Man.
Mom was Mona Neale (later Mona Ball) and her siblings were Kathleen and Wilfrid. In 1920, the Neale family moved to Markby Road, which is where I was born (at number 30) in 1940.
All the best John Ball E-mail: email@example.com web site http://home.clara.net/wfha/
I am certain that the picture of the railway station at the top of the photographs page is Winson Green, not Benson Road.
Benson Road was, I think, called "Soho & Winson Green", also; the lie of the land with a high brick wall at the back makes me think of Winson Green Road with the station backing on to Aberdeen Street
Phil Edwards Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The railway station pictured is without doubt the Benson Rd one and the train is heading for Snow Hill. If you look at the houses/shops in the background they are on the brow of the hill descending to Benson Rd school and Park Rd / Factory Rd junction. My uncle George was tragically killed here on 23/12/1958 on a foggy morning when he crossed the lines instead of using the footbridge and was hit by one of the new fangled diesel trains which witnesses claim he wouldn't have heard coming in the thick fog.
That was a devastating Christmas as he and my aunt lived next door to us in Markby Rd, he was a smashing bloke and as my aunt had gone to work the police knocked on our door at 09;00 and just told my mom not knowing that she was his sister, a Christmas best forgotten and none of us ever used the station from that day on, even crossing the road bridge made me shudder.
The irony of the story being that the day started happily for my uncle as that was the day of his works Christmas party, he had a knife, fork and spoon in his pocket for this purpose and though he normally commuted on his motorbike and sidecar that day he decided to use the train as he would be having a drink, thus his unfamiliarity with the station and being on the wrong platform just before the arrival of his train.
Pete Ellis Email: email@example.com
Another incident that happened at that station around 1949 involved a pupil in our class at Benson Road School ( Bobby Barnet who lived in Park Road). Traveling back from Snow Hill he realized the train was not going to stop at this station and jumped from the train. The door from Yeomans the butchers opposite was lifted from its hinges and used as a stretcher to bring the badly injured boy to the front of the station to await the ambulance. We never saw Bobby for over six months until one day he appeared back at school.
Ted Rudge 22/11/03
Rosemary recollects another tragedy involving pupils from Benson Road School and a fatal train derailment. The full story can be found on the Streets pages under Lee Street.
also see Waverton and beyond on the Schools page
Does anyone else remember these incidents??????