WOODBURN ROAD (no 8) 19/09/05 {Smethwick or Handsworth really but near enough for inclusion]


by Brenda  Babington

Did anyone ever call them prefabricated houses? They were along the edge of two sides of Blackpatch Park.  Most in Woodburn Road and three in Perrott Street, with a patch of waste land on the corner. 

The Allan's, with a son and a younger daughter called Jennifer (born 1947) lived in the middle one in Perrott Street.  I believe the Allan's moved to the Halesowen area, as my mother and I met Mrs Allan in a pub there sometime in the 70's.

The Hodgkins lived in the first one from the corner in Woodburn Road.  Mrs Hodgkins was originally from Nottingham.  They had three children (the same ages as my family).  The eldest son was Paul (born 1944), daughter Valerie (born 1947) and Nigel (born 1950).  They later moved to a new council house in Oxhill Road.

In one of the next two houses was a family called Woodward, who I think had two sons, the youngest I remember being older thann most of the children in the road .

We were at No 8, Gladys and Ivor Babington.

My eldest brother Michael was born in 1944, myself Brenda  in 1947, and my youngest brother Tony in 1950.

At No. 10 was the Haines family.  They either had two or three daughters, the youngest was my best friend Barbara.  One sister died but I cannot remember if this left just Barbara or not.

The end house next to the park gate was the Woolly family.  I cannot remember how many or what children they had but they later moved to Elmdon where Birmingham airport is now situated.  I remember going on a great expedition to visit them in their new home.  This entailed walking up to Soho Road for the bus into the city center.  Walking across town from Snow Hill to the Bull Ring to catch a Midland Red bus.  

I remember one sunny day sitting on the steps of their prefab eating a sugar sandwich and mom being very annoyed when she found out. A regular meeting place for the children from the prefabs was the waste land at the corner of the road.  One day I trod on a strip of metal that shot up and cut the base of my left thumb.  I remember my mother dashing me in a pushchair to the doctors (Dr Young).  His surgery was in Rookery Road opposite the Farcroft pub.  I still have the scar at the bottom of my thumb all these years later. I remember regularly going in a group over to the play equipment in the park.

We went in the Woodburn Road park entrance.  I was always fascinated where the path crossed the brook that went through the park; we then turned left to the playground equipment.  All parks then seemed to have a large villa type house with shop and cafe (usually painted green I think) and this was here as well.  If you turned right over the brook there was at least one football pitch and changing rooms.  Straight ahead the path continued out of the park onto Foundry Lane. The prefab side of the brook and to the right of the path just inside the gate were some tennis courts where I remember watching my parents play occasionally. There was another gate into the park in Perrott Street, reached by turning left at the brook, past the villa and playground equipment.  I remember flowerbeds etc. on this section and definitely the `posh' area. The play equipment had swings, rocking horse, slide, and witches hat.  All equipment definitely would not pass the Health & Safety checks now, especially the most popular of all, the witch's hat.  However, I do not remember there ever being an accident worse than a grazed knee etc.

All the children from the prefabs went to Bolton Road Primary School. I do remember when I was perhaps about nine and living at 10 Earlsmead Road by then, going to the park one Saturday morning with a school friend called Pauline.  Despite moving house, we had all stayed at Bolton Road school and not transferred to Wattville Road where all the children where we should have attended from our new house.  Wattville Road School was playing Bolton Road School at football.  I liked our school's center forward and was jubilant when he scored a goal and Wattville Road's goalkeeper knocked himself out on the goalpost diving to try and save the ball.  Little did I know that thirteen years later I would marry that goalkeeper!

I remember the milkman delivering by horse and cart and feeding the horse some bread.  I have always been `mad' on horses, perhaps this was the start point. There were builder's yards etc. opposite the prefabs at the bottom of the railway embankment.  Opposite the park entrance Anne Road was off Woodburn Road and ran alongside the railway embankment. I remember one of the factories at the bottom of Anne Road, on the railway side, catching fire and the fire engines tackling the blaze.  Perhaps this was caused by a spark from the steam trains, as I remember two more fires from that cause when we lived in Earlsmead Road.  Earlsmead Road was at the top of Anne Road but the other side of the railway embankment, with the road up to the Handsworth & Smethwick Railway station running along the bottom of the back gardens. Whether it was just my family or not, but we were christened and went to Sunday school at Bishop Latimers.  It was only in the 70's when passing the church regularly to visit my mother in hospital (evidently my older brother only found out the same thing then as well) that I saw the sign outside the church and realised it was actually Bishop Latimer's.

The main event I remember was the queen's coronation in 1953.  Unfortunately, as it was a sad occasion for me.  I had chickenpox.  Therefore, I was banned from the festivities.  There was a street party at the top of Perrott Street.  I remember being dressed in my fairy costume but standing in an entry with my mother, away from all the other children seated at the tables, while someone came to judge my costume.  I received a coronation mug and a post office set.  The next day everyone went off to Rhyl for the day on coaches.  My grandmother came to look after me for the day and I remember her holding me at the front window of the prefab so I could wave at everyone driving off on the coaches.    I still have the coronation mug but I remember the treasured Post Office set being taken to school (presumably for the last day of term before Christmas) and dropping it in the snow at the bottom of Queens Head Road just before going under the railway bridge.Many years later, in the 70's I visited the prefab of my husbands grandparents.  No need to show me round, I knew exactly where everything was.