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BROOKFIELDS

BIRMINGHAM

BETTY NEEDS, the CHURCH and  BROOKFIELDS 14/12/08                                                        I attach a speech my mother Betty Needs made to the congregation of her local church in Bristol.
I found the speech when I was going through my mother’s collection of items after she had died on the 6th July 1997. The speech relates back to when the family lived in New Spring Street, Brookfields.
I used to go to the Sunday School at New Spring Street Methodist Church, and my mother used to go to church at Summerhill in Ladywood, until this was closed during the time the whole area was being cleared for redevelopment. Rob Needs  robneeds@talktalk.net

BETTY'S SPEECH
We moved to a new house in Ladywood around 1970/71?? when it was our turn to move out of Brookfields, and we moved to Bristol in the summer of 1975, back to where my father used to live as a child, after his mother had died. My parents decided it was best all round to move to Bristol, because we took on looking after my fathers step-sister who was mentally handicapped.
By coincidence the local church where the speech was read out many years after the move South West was also called Summer Hill.
The speech covered a period I fondly remember, because just before Christmas, the front living room was full with toys, and though they all got distributed, I had a few fun filled days trying out all the different games and toys.
All my life I have been pushed into doing things I didn't want to do and one of these things was joining the Methodist church. I was christened in the Church of England, then brought up in the Congregational church where I was very happy and thought I would stay for ever. However, it was Hitler who introduced me to Methodism, one of his bombs dropped in our back garden, destroying the back of our house and we had to leave and go to live the other side of Birmingham with my mother's 3 sisters who had a biggish house. One of the sisters attended the Methodist church, which was also named Summerhill and I went there one evening with her, and when I heard the singing and had a real Methodist welcome, I was hooked.
After I had been there a while I went into the army, after training I was posted to Chester and on the Sunday morning enquired where the nearest Methodist church was. Our barracks was situated out in the country and I had to get a bus into the city and then find St. John Street.
When I came back home in 1946 I was looking forward to going back to Summerhill, but on my first morning back the Sunday School superintendent came up to me and said 'Welcome home - we are desperately short of Sunday School teachers - any chance of you coming down this afternoon to help out' So I did just that, never dreaming where it would lead me. Our church was in the city inner belt and the housing in places was appalling, as were some of the homes I went into. The children were by no means angels, but somehow I survived.
The minister who had been at Summerhill through the war years moved away and then came back to Birmingham, but this time to a church on the outskirts, very modern and quite a rich church. This church decided to adopt Summerhill and have a toy service at Christmas. Not only toys, but lots of clothing for children, to say nothing of food for Christmas. As we had a large building we had no trouble in storing this and sorting it all out for various families in need. Summerhill was already on the closure list because many of the surrounding houses were to be demolished, but it was several years before it actually happened. By then it had been vandalised so much there was only one school room that was useable, where the windows had been bricked up, but we had the closing service back in the church, broken windows or not, and fortunately for us the rain held off.
All this time we had been living in the next district to Ladywood, named Brookfields and the house we lived in was actually opposite a small Methodist church. My son had been attending the Sunday School there since he was three years old, so I joined in as well and once again the first question was 'Will you help in the Sunday School'. Our friends at Quinton were still wanting to help out at Christmas, but Brookfields church was very small and had no storage space what so ever, so my front room was the obvious place to use and for about three weeks before Christmas, we used to pick our way to the front door through toys, sugar, tea, tinned goods etc. etc. always hoping the floor wouldn't give way. Our house too was very old. The first time they collected for Brookfield’s the people there wanted to know a little about it and asked if two of us would go one Sunday morning to Quinton and perhaps tell a little about what was going on in the area, as Brookfields itself would be next on the list for demolition. Here again God gave me another push and said you can do that and I agreed to go with our Sunday School Superintendent and say a few words. It wasn't until we actually arrived that I was told their morning congregation usually numbered about 400, not including children, and if I could have turned and run back home I would have done so.

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MEMORIES of BROOKFIELDS 17/09/07                                                                                          I recall  in 1948, my sister ask me to go a errand, to a Chemist Shop in Great Hampton Street named Snapes to purchase some Leg Makeup all the Women used due to the shortage of silk stocking,she gave me the money,and 2/- for myself and sixpence for the tram fare.
Clever me changed the travelling method, I decided to take a car that had been repaired in my father garage for a test run.unbeknown to anyone. Travelling up Lodge road.turning into All Saints and to Hingeston Street,when driving down the car wheel was caught in the tram rail,and rear wheel broke of the car and I Crashed through the Butcher Shop Window the Corner of Prescot St & George Street West with Sausage & Meat all over the place,I escaped injury free,the Butcher had a few words of condemnation,and allowed me to phone my brother and explain and for him to come and sort the problem.he arrived and said that I was to make myself dissappear before my father appearance,this I duly carried out and head to my Grandmothers where I stayed for six weeks waiting for my Dad to Forget & Forgive. A very costly 6d Tram ride cost my father dearly.
I learned greatly from my mistakes.

My grandfather lived at 118. Hingeston Street in 1891.and was the Local Policeman and Fire Officer of the G.W R Hockley Goods Station.reciving comendations for the apprenhension of thieves and a pay increment from 31/-d per week to 33/-d and his first Stripe. I belive the Police Station was sited on the corner of Warstone Lane &Tenby street north opposite the cemetery.they moved from thier first address to 12a Tenby Street were my father was born in 1896.when later years he married my mother 1920 and live in Lodge Road. Tenby Street is still part of the history pepole mention in their comments.our family have always called this area the Jeweller Quarter, carrying on with connection, My mother brother had a Jewellery Shop and living accomodatiom two doors away from a Company named E.Camelinat Co, my parents would take me to my Aunt & Uncles to play with my cousions, while they all went out to the Vine Pub for a drink,I remember when the Vine was bombed and days later they found the landlord and his wife in the Cellar siting in chairs under the remains of the pub,being only 9 years old did not realy understand the severity of war. I continued to go to my Aunties and stay and wander round Albion St.Camden St Carver St, where on the corner was the Butchers Slaughter & Shop called Stoddards renowned for their Meat Products and on occasions witness farm animals scremming going down a slope at the rear of the building. I beleave the Streets & Roads are still there, but the community has disappeard,also well known Business Bullpits, the Mint. Buttons,and many others,all in the name of progress. My memories will never fade because the Famlies of my generation were generous to each other. I hope one day to return to view the area of my youth.good luck and health to all that lived
in the area.

 Regards Colin Mills.  Email cmills9@blueyonder.co.uk


Remembering Snow Hill to Hockley Goods Station and All Saints                                                  Each of us have  private landmarks by which to chart the spinning past, be it the first daffodil to force its way into spring or those certain smells that waft in front of the nostrils or it may be a sound that triggers of an emotion.  It is odd how often big news is shrugged of and relegated to the back of your mind, but a hint of nostalgia reacts instantly it is like a match to the blue touch paper on a fire work, whoosh and the dormant memory cells explode into a kaleidoscope of colour this is what happened to me when asked to recall my days cleaning windows at Snow Hill railway station.  I started work as a trainee window cleaner for a large window cleaning company the name was "The City and District" they had their main offices in Newhall Street in the Center of Birmingham, they were contractors to numerous companies in industry and commerce, an old Brummagem saying that we made anything from a pin to a battle ship and during my working life was privileged to work at the places that made them also banks hospitals and commercial office buildings many with world wide names I feel part of the great British Industrial revolution with my roots still attached to the clouds that have been dispersed blown away by the winds of change yet doubtless there is still a communication between them and me,  its not really my hobby horse but to cant on about the past and is something that I can't resist especially when you've been there and it causes me no difficulties whatsoever to create an atmosphere of where my feet once trod.  And I can't foresee the day when I'll wave good bye to nostalgia I feel It is my duty to preserve what gone before because time and tide wait for none as we speed into this electronic age.

Amongst our major contracts where all the major railway stations in and around the Midlands.  I was a contract window cleaner all my working life the last thirteen years before my retirement were spent at the National Exhibition Center and it was a privilege to see the inner working of some of the most magnificent buildings and factories in the Midlands and beyond.  Sadly most of these have been demolished to make room for redevelopment. I have many stories in my repartee.  So I have chosen Snow Hill Station to fit in with Ted Rudge's …… Winson Green to Brookfields  web site.  

One of the city's treasures was Snow Hill Station, the magnificence that was Snow Hill, was its sheer size. All the hotel rooms above the main concourse where refitted and they were turned in to office accommodation, fortunately what they did do was to retain all the originals fittings and ornate plaster work, a unique marble concourse in addition to a rubber block floor to deaden the noise of horse carriages in the interest of the people staying in the hotel making sure the were not troubled with noise pollution. So the essential nature of this magnificent edifice was kept alive in the true Great Western Railway conception.  Holidaymaker's were not at all interested in the eloquence of this splendid building the architecture was sheer elegance.  The front of house displayed a grace from a former age        It was reckoned to be one of the finest examples of a main line railway station, It was built to accommodate The Great Western railway and not for nothing was G W R sometimes said to stand for Gods Wonderful Railway. The opulence mirrored what the Great Isombard Kingdom Brunell expected of his endeavors.  It was also paradise for the hundreds of kids that made the pilgrimage to record the names of the countries most famous steam engines that called there. Time has given us many railway thoroughbreds I was never a train spotter but you didn't have to be an enthusiast to realise that some of the best names adorned the massive steam beasts that took you safely on your way.  I for one think Birmingham lost a wonderful opportunity when they destroyed such a wonderful building not only that. But they lost a fantastic opportunity of making Brum the best steam museum in the world and I firmly believe we could have taken the crown off the city of York who own and run the National Railway Museum.  From my window cleaning days I can still feel the ache in my arms after a long hard day and smell the nostalgic acrid fumes of burning coal as well as hearing the hiss of steam along with the heart of a steam locomotive panting as it flexes its muscles to haul the hundreds of holiday makers to the sea side I swear I can still see a wisp of steam and smoke curling into the now clear sky as I now board the Metro to Wolverhampton, when I flash my free travel pass at station staff I think if only they knew how it used to be.  Also do they realise what has been lost with these silent people carriers while they speed between stations.  The reminiscences of that unhurried age when we trundled through life? Being a window cleaner gave me a fantastic window to look through and enabled me to grasp at what the ordinary traveler didn't see. Snow hill meant many things to many people but to me it was an institution it was like our glorious Town Hall, there was an excitement about the place each time you passed through the magnificent portals, it was a pleasure to go to work I was able to get the feel of the station as a whole, from the office staff, the workers, and the engine drivers to the signal rooms and the complex control office in fact every cog in the wheel I was part of the establishment I was privy to any V I P visit, because our company were called in to make the place ship shape and fit to welcome the visitor and when the station master donned on his top hat I assure you I wasn't far behind him with my watch full eye to gaze at the very important persons. I cleaned the clock face that sweethearts met or kissed goodbye under cleaned the glass and washed down the cathedral like roof performed daring deeds washed down the marble facers in the main entrance scaled the cast iron gantries walked the tunnels and track to clean the numerous railway building that stretched all the way into Winson Green. Totally against the rules but it enabled you to get from snow hill through to Hockley Goods Yard up to Soho Dwarf the tunnel took you under Great Hampton Street, Spencer Street and Vyse street to the goods yard that ran parallel with Pittsford Street this enabled us to get to the offices that straddled Icknield Street where the inner circle number eight bus passed under the building.   To clean the outside of these big heavy sash windows we had to stand on the window sills again with out any harness but this was the days before health and safety was considered an issue   all very nerveracking as the number eight bus passed underneath you just a couple of feet above.  I remember one incident I dropped my chamois and it landed on the top of the moving bus and off it went for a trip around the inner circle just as I had done many times when I was a lump of a lad and the old man wanted us out the house on a Sunday afternoon after a couple of hours in the boozer.  From the record offices we continued with our track side assignment to complete the many building that were hidden from the public gaze.  And then we would carry on up to the stables and the canteen area right through to the perimeters of All Saints Hospital and the canal basins. The yards above All Saints Street had its own reward because this was the stables and black smiths and engineering shops as they were called not only did they shoe the horses but forged and repaired all the metal attachments.  And being that horses were very high on my list of beloved animals, it meant that I was in my oil tot. The popularity of these docile cart horses that were pampered by the carter was a sight to behold especially on May Day when the carter turned them out to parade the streets of Brummagem with main and tail plated with colored ribbons all the horse brasses polished like burnished gold and it never failed to take even their most fervent admirers by surprise as they pranced to the delight of the onlooker in their best bib and tucker. My window cleaning roots have connected me to many industries that were part of the industrial revolution I'm now in retirement and thank my lucky stars that my chosen trade enabled me to be part of what's gone before and unfortunately is no longer there its great to read the history books but to be able to say been there, done that, wore the T shirt.  It gives me a great satisfaction, I have many stories connected with Brums industrial heritage but that's another story.
By Bob Houghton                    

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Micheal Priest 04/05/2015   mandgpriest@virginmedia.com  

Micheal Priest 04/05/2015   mandgpriest@virginmedia.com