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Forum Home > Blackcountry Factual History. > Wednesbury History. Parish Records.

Alaska.
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Wednesbury Parish Records.


Many thanks to the contributor of the following items, who wishes to remain anonymous.


The many Mine shafts that have been sunk within the region are uncountable. Some were deep, some shallow, some water filled, but above all, they were all dangerous. A selection of just how deadly they could be, is recorded in Wednesbury's Parish Burial Records. In 1749, a curious soldier, Richard Guest, asked to be shown around one local Pit. It was, in the event, his last request this side of heaven, he was killed when the roof of the mine fell down. The same year, and the next, 1750, saw two men, returning from a night out, ( and probably the worse for drink)  both fall into a Coal Pit. Neither of them survived the mishap, and no comment was made, as the whole area was pockmarked with holes caused by mining. In 1752, Thomas Harpur, a native of Birmingham, also fell into a mine shaft, and he lay there a week before he was found. He expired before medical help could arrive. Other useful facts and information are to be found in such records, which are not recorded elsewhere.


The wife of James Hawood, Mary, fell down her own well in 1753, unsurprisingly, she was drowned. Another odd death was that of the wife of Thomas Picken, also in 1753, who died after being stabbed in her private parts with a fork stail. (the long wooden handle) They were mowing and shifting Corn, an incidence which illustrates the still rural nature of Wednesbury. Later on that year, a labourer, and presumed drunkerd, William Collins, was found dead on a Dungheap. Booze or the suffocating smell, take your pick. The records also leave a few mysteries behind. In 1756, an Inn keeper found a traveller dead in his bed. The man had arrived with his wife, who had called him Bob, but was nowhere to be found when the body was discovered. It's not recorded what transpired afterwards. Nor was that the only thing that left Wednesbury folk puzzled. The un-named Governor of Wednesbury Workhouse, and a woman, (possibly his wife) were committed to Prison, and hence to the Assizes, for murdering one of the inmates. They were both aquitted, now there's a surprise, lack of any witness'es I suppose. Now if you live in Wednesbury, and you're off out for a drink, do take care walking home.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

April 14, 2011 at 3:31 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Posts: 1404



Like a great many other places in the Black Country, overcrowding, and poor santitation, caused it's own problems. Between 1760, and 1770, Wednesbury had no fewer than 3 outbreaks of Smallpox. Over 280 people died in these outbreaks, a large proportion of the dead, children. A certain Mr Wood, owned quite a few of the local Pits, and he didn't seem to be too bothered about safety. There are recorded, at least 8 deaths by fires, and over 20 serious injured by burning. Josiah Hackwood, being singulary unfortunate. He survived the fire and explosion. The blast however, shot up the pit shaft, and demolished a great deal of the brickwork around it. What gets blown up, must, eventually come down, and so it did. Right down the shaft, to land on poor old Josiah, who was waiting to come up. Other trades were just as dangerous, take grinding for instance. To put an edge on a scythe, or other tool, the grinder had to lean over a huge stone wheels, propelled by a steam driven overhead shaft. They had no emergency brake, and certainly no inspections of the wheels. It was a common sort of accident for the stones to suddenly break, and pieces to fly everywhere. Just such a piece, killed Joseph Stevens, in 1767, decapitating him. During the Coronation, in 1761, at a bonfire party, Mary Blakemore was shot dead. The weapon was only supposed to loaded with powder, at least that was what was said at the inquest. Another death I think, I would attribute to the demon drink, or maybe just someones idea of a bit of a lark. 250 years on, and some members of the human race, still havn't quite grasped the safety angle.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

April 21, 2011 at 4:12 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Unicorn
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Posts: 46

I take it they were not very hot on health and safety in those days but those were some grim ways to die.

April 22, 2011 at 1:00 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

And so there were Unicorn, but according to the records, the population found many ways to enjoy themselves prior to turning up their toes. Wednesbury was granted a Market in 1709, which concidering the place was mentioned in the Domesday Book, it was a long time coming. The Town also had, like many others two annual Fairs, which may have led to a custom, that earned the place a bad name. The custom was to visit, on Fair days, as many Pubs as one could, and there were quite a few. it was reputed, that the only subject the Towns folk cared about, was getting drunk, (usually, every day) and eating. So bad did this become, that in 1874, the wakes in the streets,were abolished by the Home Secretary. (on private land though, they continued.) They say that Church and politic's don't mix, throw in the demon drink, and you end up with what became known as the Shrovetide Riots, 1743. It started during a visit to the Town by the preacher John Wesley, no doubt the fires were further stoked, by the Vicar of Saint Bartholomews. It's a wonder Wesley escaped intact, and some indication of the feeling against Methodism, that nearby Darlaston became the main Circuit Church. What came out of the ground though, was what made Wednesbury's name, Coal and Limestone. It attracted, amongst others, the families of Lloyd and Foster, strong Quakers and thus started the setting up of Wednesburys famous " Patent Shaft " works, the contribution made by Cornelious Whitehouse, welded tubes, and Edward Elwell's edge tool company. As can be seen from the Parish records, the whole area was pitted with holes, as it is to this day, although most of them can't be seen. The famous Doctor Plot, on his journey through Staffordshire, noted that some of these pits could catch fire without warning. They could swallow up the unwary vistor as well. In 1897, a man lost his life falling into such a fiery pit, and so bad did it become, that the Council had to construct a massive sand trench, to save the Sewers, Gas mains, and Tramlines, from serious damage. The Limestone workings are to this day, still a threat to the Town. The last of the large employers, known by all as the " Shaft ", sadly ceased production in 1980, severing the last major link with Wednesbury's great Industrial past.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

May 1, 2011 at 11:07 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

Just a brief mention in the records, is all that remains of the night Wednesbury got bombed by a Zepplin, 31st January 1916. Most of the damage was confined to Kings Street, and hit, was a Theatre, ( casualties ) and a prayer meeting, where the Ministers wife was killed. Because of wartime restrictions, almost no accounts were published. This Raid was one of two that night, the other being Tipton.  About 72 men women and children died in these raids, the most damage being done in Tipton. Does anyone know how many perished in Wednesbury ?


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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

June 4, 2011 at 4:08 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

There were, in the past, a few more dangers in Wednesbury, than met the eye. ( Although they wouldn't have gone unnoticed by one's nose ) In 1845, the town, just one long street on the Turnpike, began to have the problems associated with expansion. Many little streets, alley's, and courts had sprung up, all off the main road, and all built without any drainage or piped water. The Parish records say that there was no drainage system worthy of the name, no running water, and vile and filthy contaminated wells. The Workhouse, it went on, had a foul well, and water had to be carried in several times a day, for washing and drinking. Non of the dwellings had covered drains for the privies, into which was also shoveled huge piles of pig ****, and horse manure. These soon blocked, forcing the residents to wade ankle deep through the resulting flooded alley's. The towns Magistrate's had their own problem as well, at the back of the Turks Head, was lurking a mystery, which drew the following comment. " There is a dreadful stinking tank or ditch at the back of the Turks Head, and everyone has to walk through this disgusting mess ". It's not recorded if the problem was sorted out, but as far as I can see, it was just another nasty whiff, like all the rest. They must have all been used to it at the time, perhaps, over time, we have all developed a keener sense of smell.



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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

October 24, 2011 at 4:10 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

It was market day in the town every Friday, and the records suggest it was a riotous end to the week. " The Townsfolk displayed a most fearsome addiction to intemperence ", reported the Vicar of Saint Bartholomew's. It was so bad on the towns fair day's, 6th May and 3rd August each year, that the Vicar was " half minded to shut the Church, to keep out the drunken rabble ". It's supposed, that the towns larger pubs, The Talbot, The Green Dragon, The Turk's Head, The Dartmouth Arms, and The Red Lion, all did a roaring trade on these days. This reputation for bad behaviour though, had been around, long before this Vicar took up the post. From the 1780s, up until 1815, it was a boom town, it's inhabitants earning well above the avarage, due to the manufacture of War materials. The long conflict, with first the French, then the Americans in 1812, and back to the French, saw the place virtually awash with money. Sadly, the good times came to an end in 1815, following the defeat of Napolean, at Waterloo. A great many townspeople, who were quick to spend freely, and not show any care towards the future, were soon in trouble. By 1816, the Workhouse was overloaded, and living conditions in the Parish, were back almost to the same dismal level of 30 years before. Typical of most Black Country folk really, live now, pay later. Almost 200 years down the line, and it looks like pay day has finally arrived. Perhaps the old Vicar was a Prophet as well.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

December 2, 2011 at 11:06 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

Recorded in the Parish Register, for July 1862, is the mention of prayers being said for a most unusual accident, in a Beer House, in Camp Street, Wednesbury. As was the case at the time, the Beer was brewed on the premises, the water coming from a well in the building celler. Now it happened that the well became blocked, and being a resourceful chap, the landlord asked some of his regular customers, nearly all miners, for a bit of help. George Lees, John Orgill, John Smith, Joseph Thompson, and his brother William, erected a contraption in the celler and set to work clearing out the well. Work and progress was steady, and as well as rocks, a large amount of coal was lifted to the surface. With only limited space, there was just enough room for two men, and on the day of the accident, only Lees and Orgill were down the shaft. Smith was waiting at the top with the Thompson brothers, when looking down, he saw both miners stagger backwards and collapse. Despite knowing what had happened, he made the brave decision to go down and rescue the two men. He collapsed as well, for in clearing out the shaft, they had broken into some old mine workings, and had released a large quantity of " Choke Damp ". Another miner, William Morley, who had just come off his shift, was enlisted to help. Morley, a very experienced man, realised what the problem was, and using his judgement, waited a few minutes and then went down the well. All three men were by now dead, killed almost at once by the deadly fumes. At great danger to himself, he eventually bought up the three lifeless bodies, for which act of bravery he was rightly praised. As indeed was John Smith, who had sacificed his life in a vain attempt at rescue. I suppose the beer house has long gone, as it doesn't give the name in the records, but at least the memory of the event is here for all to see.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

December 20, 2011 at 3:29 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

From reading through some of the records, Wednesbury was a really dangerous place to live in the 18th century. The whole area seemed to be full of mine shafts and " miry holes ". John Stokes, in 1749, returning home in the dark, fell into a coal pit and broke his neck. A year later, in late 1750, yet another native of the Town also fell into a coal pit, with similar results. He had been for a night out in Darlaston, and, it would be safe to assume, was to befuddled with drink to notice a large hole in the ground. Mines at the time, being shallow, didn't have large wooden structures over them, they were just dug in farm fields. Daniel Skidmore, was killed in January 1753, when the sides of a mine collapsed, his son escaped injury. Having no sooner cleared up the mess, and got back into production, the grieving son, Paul Skidmore, was himself killed, in the same pit, and from the same cause, just 7 weeks later. Later on that year, the Parish buried a man called just William, as no one knew his surname. Known by his workmates as " Black Will ", he died after a fall of coal crushed his head. In 1756, yet another poor miner was killed in the Town by the mines roof crashing down, and then just 4 days later, Jane Rowley turned her husband into a widower, by falling down the same pit and was drowned. She had gone along to have a look, rubber-necking they call it today, let that be a warning to others. There were other dangers too. Our ancesters wern't overfond of washing either, if we believe the stories, and those that were faced some risks. It must have been either his birthday, or his time for a yearly bath, that put paid to one of the Towns piemakers, John Bittell. He drowned taking a bath in Willingworth Pool, in 1750. Finally, that miry hole. This was a name the locals gave to the many pits that caught fire, and were just filled in and abandoned. Jane Brain, innocently walked over one of these in 1756 and falling in as the ground gave way, was suffocated by the fumes. Yes indeed, the old Wednesbury could be a dangerous place when out walking.


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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

May 7, 2012 at 3:28 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Now its been bought to my attention, that some of the material included in this Topic, and a few other mentions of Wednesbury on the website, have appeared elsewhere on the internet. I wish everyone, who starts up a local website,  ( and it can be very hard work, as I know only to well  ) the very best of luck in their endeavour. If asked, I will help in any way I can, because it increases peoples knowledge of how it all once was. The only thing I have ever requested, is that at least I am asked for permission to use some of the information on the site, and a mention as the source. I have very rarely refused anyone. Please bear in mind, that a lot of research has gone into a great deal of it, and that unlike other forms of internet use, I pay for this site. I do have copywrite and intellectural rights over that which I have written, and besides, its only polite to ask, or doesn't that apply to Face Book Users. Rant over, Merry Christmas Wednesbury.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

December 19, 2012 at 2:44 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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