Black Country Muse

Subtitle

Forums

Post Reply
Forum Home > Dead and Buried. > Canals, and Tragic Events,

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Wordsley, Brierley Hill, Boatmen, and the Canals.


They do say, that Birmingham and the Black Country, have more miles of waterways than Venice. It may be true, but what is a proven fact, is that we certainly have more Pubs. As most of the canals were unfenced, it was perfectly normal, so it seems, to walk into one. Some of these poor souls failed to get out under their own steam, and had to be assisted, cold, stiff, and very drowned. Some of us will remember the real pea-souper Fogs we used to have, well they weren't new, they had been around  from the start of the Industrial revolution. Some times, with fatal results.


Thomas Bickley, a young lad from Wordsley, possibly concidered himself lucky, to have a job at 14, working for the Bridgewater Trust. This Company owned the stretch of Canal that included the Nine Locks, at the Delph, Brierley Hill. He was employed to help unload the boats, and to assist with the horses, and overnight stabling. On this night, at the end of November 1853, a thick Fog had descended, and the boatman, Isaac Hobbs, sent young Thomas, with a horse to the stable. This structure, was not more than 100 yards distant, and when the lad did not come back, Isaac called out for him, several times. Fearing the worst, the boatman, with great care, found assistance, and lights were bought to the canalside. It didn't take long to find the body. Isaac Hobbs swore at the inquest, that he had heard no cry for help, nor any sounds of distress. The horse wasn't mentioned, and the verdict was accidental death. On the same day, James Calligan, 25, a native of Ireland, who worked in Woodside, Dudley, but lodged near to the Nine Locks, also fell into the canal. He had earlier been out drinking with Josiah Dunn, and they had parted company, at the bridge just below the locks. Living in the area, you would have thought Calligan would have some knowlege of where he was walking, but it appears not. Dunn, in evidence, said he heard a splash, but it being exceedingly foggy and pitch black, he could not tell from which direction the noise came. After hearing the sound of gurgling, he concluded someone was drowning and went off to get assistance. To recover the body, they had to open the lower lock to drain out the water, and at which stage, James Calligan was pronounced dead. Another case of accidental death.


On another branch of a canal, not far away in Wordsley, which had 16 locks in it's short length, more tragedy was in the offing. Joseph Ridley, on the same fatal night, and in almost similar circumstances, fell into one of the locks. His companion, realising what had happened, was forced to proceed towards the splashing on his hands and knees, for fear of ending up in the same prediciment. In the end, he managed to get to the lockeepers cottage, where lights and a drag rope were quickly secured. The rescuers found the body, and nearly suffered another fatality, when one of their number also fell into the lock. At the inquest, it was noted that several people over the years, had come to the same end at this spot, and the Coroner asked the canal company to take measures to ensure it didn't happen again. Accidental death recorded, and, as for the fencing, no chance, this was 1853, and life was cheap. Interestingly, no mention was made of any drinking at these inquests, which, I may add, were all conducted in Public Houses. Strange that.


This last piece, which I read a great many years ago, upset a lot of people at the time, and you can see why. On the same foggy night. James Haines had been a boatman for many years, tough as they come, for it was a rough old trade on the canal. In company with two other boatmen, named as Taylor and Sadler, they were on their way to tie up for the night. Haines, had in his employ, Isaac Male, who was 10 years old. After mooring the boat, Haines, with the lad riding on it's back, led his horse towards some stabling. At the 15th Lock, for counting, was how they found thier way in foggy weather, the horse and rider fell into the canal. There is some dispute, as to whether Haines fell in as well, although, at the subsequent inquest, he claimed he had. He then claimed he started off for some assistance, he was gone for over twenty minutes, which again raised a few eyebrows. When he returned, the horse was still struggling in the water, but with some effort, it was hauled out. There was no sign of the boy. News spread rapidily around the area, and whispered accusations began to circulate. Isaac's father informed the Coroner, that according to some witness's, Haines had no effort to save the lad, but had spared no expense, to save the horse. William Lowe, another boatman, and Joseph Taylor, a lad of Isaac's age, swore on oath, that Haines had ran off, and returned with a rake, which he proceeded to use to catch the horse's harness. Valuble items were Horses. They did not see Haines search for, or indeed show any concern for his employee.  James Haines was not a very popular man in, and around Brierley Hill, the Coroners comments of censure, following him everywhere he went. There was only one verdict that could be bought in, yet another "accidental death".



--

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

April 15, 2011 at 11:46 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Windmill End, Netherton Canal. Samuel Crew.


It happens sometimes, that a family name crops up in the same area, seperated by many years, and associated with a sad story. The name Crew, or Crewe, appears in one of the mining accidents, when three members of the family were all killed. Many years later, and this time just one of them, Samuel Crew, who lived in Windmill End, near where his unfortunate ancesters did, lost his life. Samuel was born in 1893, and at the time he met his death, he was just turned 21. The Great War was a little over 4 months old, and the appalling cost of lives had not yet begun. I don't doubt, that when the call came for more men, young Samuel would have gladly volunteered. He never however, got the chance. He was at the time " courting " a pleasent young woman, Phyllis Chandler, 19, who lived just a few streets away. On December 24th, Phyllis, and her friend Mary Ann Wells, caught the 6.30am Train from Windmill End to Birmingham, where they both worked. They were due back on the 7.30pm, and, as usual  Samuel went to meet them. No doubt all three were in high spirits, as it was Christmas Eve. During the afternoon, a heavy Fog had decended, and when Samuel called at Phyllis's parents house, after he finished work, he was asked if he needed a light. His reply would have been understandable, he knew the area well, and the road from the Station, along the Canal, they had walked many times. Samuel met the two girls off the Train, and arm in arm off they went towards home. They were never seen alive again. Mrs Chandler did not at first realise that something was wrong, believing, that as it was Christmas, her daughter had gone on into Dudley, with Samuel, to buy presents. Thomas Wells, Mary's father, became concerned about 8.00pm, when, after hearing the Train, his daughter did not appear. Because of the fog, he started a search, which went on all night. Both families searched the area around the Canal, but heard nor saw anything to cause alarm. Just after 10 am, on Christmas morning, William Capewell, knowing that three young people were missing, spotted a hat. floating in the Canal. Using a boat hook, he and a friend managed to get all three out, and onto the towpath. Samuel, it was reported, still had his arm around Phyllis's waist, as though he was trying to lift her out of the Canal. Anyone of a certain age, will be able to testify, as to the disorientation that comes in thick fog, We simply don't get them today. It's still a puzzle though, why they all went that way home, when there was a safer route. Perhaps, the very fact, that they thought they knew the way so well, was what bought about their downfall. I've been through a few very thick fogs in my lifetime, and to be honest, I wouldn't have taken the risk. They are all three very much still together, in Netherton Parish Churchyard. You will find photo's in the Images Album.

--

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

May 2, 2011 at 4:15 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Brierley Hill and Nine Locks.


Brierley Hill it seems, was a dangerous place when it came to the canals, particulary around the Delph, and Nine Locks. Because the waterways were so close to the roads, during foggy weather it was very easy to lose your bearing, and finish up in one. As anyone who has read this far will be aware of. On the night of 3rd January, 1889, Richard Walters, aged 26, decided to take his young lady for a stroll. Born in Birmingham, he had lived for some time in the town, with his parents at 51, Potters Street, and knew the area well. His evening companion, Fanny Cornock, aged 19, lived at 14 New Street, her parents having moved some years before, from School House Lane, Cradley. As is usually the case, a fog came down, and within a matter of minutes, you couldn't, as they say " see your hand in front of your face ". Some people heard a muffled scream, and maybe a cry for help, but as anyone who has been out a real pea-souper will tell you, it's almost impossible to determine from which direction the sound is coming. Following a frantic search some hours later, the lifeless bodies of the two, were pulled from a deep section of the canal. The youngest of 8 Children, her loss must have caused a great deal of anguish. Just for the record, her uncle, Edwin Cornock, was a famous figure in the area, starting, and conducting many of the districts Bands. Later that year, he would be engaged with the Blackheath Saint Pauls Church Band. Now you wouldn't have thought, with todays emphasis on all the Health and Safety aspects, that such tragedy's can still happen. Only a few months ago, a young couple lost their lifes in a canal at Smethwick, and just this week, a man was found in a local canal, drowned. His bike was still lying on the towpath.

--

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

December 19, 2011 at 4:11 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Shareshill Canal. Wolverhampton.


Mr James, a Farmer, from Shareshill, near Wolverhampton, harnessed up his pony and trap, and set off for Wolverhampton Station to collect his daughter.  January, 1888, was a time they called the " The Great Fog ", and it was already bad when he set off. His daughter, Sarah Kate James, was returning from London, where she was in domestic service, for a short break. He made it to the Station in time, and loading up the trap with her Luggage, they set off back home. The Fog though had thickened, and Mr James, more familar with the country than the town, seems to have lost his bearings. He drove the trap into the Birmingham Canal, a short distance from the station. Help was soon at hand, as his cries for assistance were soon heard. They managed to get both himself and the Horse and Trap back on the road, but young Sarah, in her panic, had managed to get some distance from the incident. She was dead when they eventually located her and dragged her out. She was just 17, and another victim of the infamous Fogs of the past.

--

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

February 9, 2012 at 4:27 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Wednesbury Canal, The Boat Inn.


On the 29th Sep,1881, 11 year old Kate Grainger, was on the way back from Pugh's Foundry, Wednesbury, having delivered her brother's tea. She knew the area well, so why she fell into the works Canal Basin is a bit of a mystery. Hearing her cries, George Bates, returning from his workplace, jumped in to save her. He couldn't swim, but believed the canal was quite shallow. He was wrong, it was over 9 feet deep. He did manage to get hold of the girl, but unable to stay afloat, they both disappeared beneath the dark surface. It was left to a local youth, Thomas Tarr, some time later, to locate and bring to the canal side both of the victims bodies. The inquest was held at The Boat Inn, Crankhall Lane, 5 days after the tragedy, when it was discovered that where the body of Bates had been stored was overun with RATS. I won't dwell on the details, except to say that this brave man left behind a pregnant wife, and 4 children. It's to be hoped, that the collection raised enough, to compensate the poor woman in some way for her terrible loss.

--

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

February 13, 2012 at 10:33 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Greets Green, West Bromwich Canal.


Samuel Jones, a Boatman, date of birth or origin unknown, and whose address was given as Greets Green, West Bromwich, appears to have been a man of dubious character. One cold Winters day, in 1882, he decided, after a day, ( and presumably the night as well ) in a Public house, to do a bit of thieving. Proceeding, as the police would put it, to a nearby canal basin, he waited for the watchman to go back into his hut, and then stole some chains from a narrowboat. Now chains make a noise, ( just ask any good ghost hunter ) and so he wrapped the stolen goods around his waist. Not content with just one lot, he then took the chains off a second boat. This time, the watchman, although getting on a bit, wasn't completely deaf, and heard the sounds. Drunk as he was, Jones wasn't stupid, ( judge for yourselves ) and knew he had to hide. There aren't many places on a cargo narrowboat to do this, so Jones quietly lowered himself over the side, and down into the icy cold water. He had fogotten about the by now conciderable weight of the chains, and also that the canal at this point was over 12 feet deep. The only other sound the watchman heard, was a strangulated gasp, and then silence. Finding nothing, he went back to his cosey warm fire in his hut. Samuel Jones'es bloated body wasn't found until the next week, it seems he hadn't been missed from his home. If it hadn't been for the stolen chains being reported missing, the death would have gone down as a suicide, and not an accident. So was Mr Jones stupid, or just a very unlucky crook.

--

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

April 22, 2012 at 4:24 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Coseley and the Tipton Green Canal.


Joseph Taylor, at 34, was doing quite well in life in 1888. He had married in 1885, had a son, Stephen, and was expecting his wife Alice, to give birth later on in the new year. He was a stock taker at the Eagle Iron Works, which later on would become the famous gas cooker maker, Cannon Foundries. He was, this week in December, on the night shift, and left his home in Jevons Street, Coseley, about 4pm. About the same time, and a mile away, at 58, Broad Street, Walbrook, James Baker, a Puddler at the same works, was also setting out. Their shift was due to finish at 4am the next day, and when Joseph failed to appear, Alice made inquires at the works. She was told that both he and Baker, had left about 10.30pm the previous night. There was a dense Fog shrouding the area at the time. When Baker was contacted, he said that while they were making their way home, he fell into the Canal. Joseph Taylor was quick off the mark, and pulled his now sodden friend from the icy water, and escorted him safely home to his wife Selina. It was now well past midnight, and the Fog was, if anything, even worse, so he asked Taylor to stay the night. Worried that his wife would panic, Taylor insisted he would be alright, but accepted a Lamp and a Candle from Baker, and set off for home. It would appear that he quickly lost his bearings, and then disappeared. For several days, the Police conducted many searches of old mine shafts, dragged sections of the Canal, and knocked on doors in order to locate the missing man. 22 days later, Joseph Taylor's gas filled body, finally surfaced at Tipton Green, nearly 2 miles from where he lived. After rescuing his friend, there was no one to do the same for him, and so a good samaritan met an end, that he surely didn't deserve.

--

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

February 14, 2013 at 3:32 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

It's not that far, from Gorse Farm Bridge, and the wharf for the old Hampstead Colliery, to the boundry of Perry Barr at Brookvale Road, on the Tame Valley Canal. They do say that humans are often drawn to water, and in the space of 14 years, 9 people drowned in this section of the canal. In 1890, Wallace Wellington Green, aged 9, was excercising his dog along with others along the towpath. It was common practise to tie a long piece of string to the dog, and put it in the canal for a swim. The dog had crossed the canal three times, and seemed to enjoy the experience, but young Wallace took his eye away for a moment. The dog turned and went for number four, pulling the lad into the canal. As no one could swim, least of all Wallace, they were forced to run for the Lock Keeper. James Aston, arrived at the scene in a few minutes, but he was too late, the lad was beyond revival. In August 1891, James Coope, a young man of 18, apparently suffered the pangs of unrequited love, and flung himself in the canals murky depths. A bit farther away, and a month later, near the last flight of locks, James Palmer, 50, having just lost his job, decided to end it all. He succeeded. Medical operations in 1892 were not as painless as they are today, so after his experience under the knife, John Solloway, 65, simply went insane. Flinging himself in on the 15th October, his body wasn't found until 3 weeks later. Up near the Brickfields Bridge, a local man, Thomas Lines, of Hill Fam, Great Barr, had a shock when he spotted the naked body of a young male child in the canal. Clearly not an accident or suicide, the culprit, believed of course to be a woman, was never found. Samuel Swayne was the lock keeper in 1896, and had that very morning passed Constable Martin, a canal policeman, on his way to report for duty. Little did he know, that later that morning, he would be pulling out, the lifeless body of the polcemans son from the water. Edwin Charles Martin was just 4 years old, and someone, had left the garden gate of the canal side cottage where he lived, unlatched. The one that sticks in your mind though is the incident in 1899. Two boatmen, traveling towards Walsall, saw a women in the canal. She was Sarah Bradley,27, and she was holding her young son, 7 months old Harry Bradley, and he was already dead. With the help of the Lock Keeper, they got her out, at which point she said she had " come over all giddy, and fallen in ". This was a lie, as events were soon to prove, for she had left a note for her husband, Robert Henry Bradley. He worked for the GPO, had 18 months before, had a nasty accident at work, and had been force to take a lower paid job. She had earlier, taken their older son who was 2, to her relatives house in Perry Barr, and left in a disressed state. In the note, she said she could no longer cope, was a bad wife, asked for forgiveness, and admitted that she owned for 7 cwt of coal. She was charged with wilful murder, but never tried in court. The finding of another body in the canal in 1900, drew a sharp rebuke from a local Doctor, who complained that he had been forced to carry out a Post Mortem in an old shed at Hampstead Colliery. Not a pleasent task, as it had been in the water a week, and he was demanding a proper mortuary. Back to the beginning with the next one, another youngster, in 1904, with a swimming dog. John Rydar, aged 9, didn't survive the experience either. Eliza Garland. aged 36, is the last one in 1904, having argued with all and sundry, lost her job, been told to find somewhere else to live, then ended up under the dark waters in the Locks. I could say, stay away from the canal, but there's this compelling feeling you get, to walk along the towpath.

--

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

June 3, 2013 at 4:05 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Harts Hill, which in the 1890s, was a small district just north of the Town of Brierley Hill, and, as any of the older residents will tell you, had a few miles of Canals running through it. There was the short section called the Pensnett Canal, which ran behind the Ironworks of Hill and Smith, and part of the Dudley Canal, which  ran through Round Oak works, and went on to join the Stourbridge Canal. There were numerous wharfes and little basins, all ideal for moving goods, and also an ideal playground for the local children. Samuel Green was just turned 13, and his playmate, on the 6th August,1890, was 10 year old Christopher Wassel. Both lads had been born in the area, and knew it well, so why they ended up drowned in the murky waters together, is still a mystery. If that little accident didn't shock the population enough, the next one surely did. Just 6 days later, a young woman, Sarah Ann Shaw, aged 20, went missing. Despite an extensive search, no trace of her was found, although rumours had begun to circulate about 4 local youths who had been seen with her on the day she disappeared. Her Body was found, late on the 14th August, by a boatman, on his way from Round Oak to Netherton. Speculation turned into accusation, as someone reported that the poor girl had been badly beaten, and names began to whispered. Whatever it was that caused her death though, according to the Coroner, it wasn't criminal. Her injuries were caused by being hit a few times as boats passed her semi-submerged body. There is no explanation though, for how she came to fall in the Canal in the first place, and with no eye witnesses, messers Cartwright, Jones, Ruston, and Davies, seem to have escaped any censure. It would seem to be a bit unlikely, that one so young, would have any reason to fling herself into a canal, unless whoever reads this can think of one.

--

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

July 10, 2013 at 3:31 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

July 1900, seems to have been as kind with the weather, as the one we have just had. Just the type of warm day for a quiet walk along the tow-path you might think, but you would be surprised what you can sometimes find.


Joseph James and Ernest Wood, on their way to work at about 5.40am, came across the poor drowned body of a fellow worker, Edward Jones, aged 65, who resided on the Stourbridge Road, Halesowen. He had spent a large part of his life working at Coombes Wood Tube Works, although by now, old age, and a habit of heavy drinking had taken it's toll. He had been unwell for some time, but he had set out as usual to carry out his days work. in the event, he never made it, and somehow finished up in the murky waters of the Dudley No2 Canal. No explanation was forthcoming at the Inquest either, held in the Heart and Hand Inn, Halesowen, the next day, which bought in an open verdict.


The next watery death concerned a young lad called Thomas Botfield, aged 8, whose lifeless body had been discovered in Benjamin Hobbs brickyard marlhole, just beyond Rowley Regis Railway Station. the lad had last been seen at his home in Long Lane, Blackheath, just a few hours before his tiny drowned corpse, had been dragged from the slighty yellow water. It was presumed, that he had slipped and fallen in while playing, but no witnesses came forward. Not even his playmates. Once again, an open verdict was recorded.


Meanwhile, over in Wolverhampton, the remains of Mary Ann Bate, aged 15, a domestic servant, working at the Golden Cup Inn, Warwick Street, Wolverhampton, were being pulled from the Canal at Horsely Fields. What she was doing at the side of the Birmingham Canal, never mind in it, was never established. She was reported to have been in good health, and the last time she had been seen, she was happy and in a good mood. Yet again, the Inquest Jury bought in an open verdict, for without anything else to go on, there was little choice. Unlike the last little story.


Samuel William Holmes, had what some would discribe as an ideal job for the time. Not only did he deliver beer as a drayman, he also helped to brew it as well. He was well liked by his employer, and a respected and honest man among the rest of his fellow citizens of Chelmsford, Essex. It came as something of a shock when he committed suicide, for he apprently dived into a large vat of beer, almost four feet deep. He drowned of course, for no one can drink that much beer in one sitting, or in this case, dive. As he had left a note, the verdict on this one was Suicide while the balance of his mind was disturbed. Not as disturbed as the Landlord I will wager, who had to throw away a large quantity of his weekly profit.

--

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

August 10, 2014 at 3:38 PM Flag Quote & Reply

You must login to post.