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Forum Home > Living and Working Conditions. > Dudley.19th Century.

Alaska.
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To those who don't know, Dudley is one of the largest Settlements, in the whole of England. It's not yet a City, although I understand plans are afoot to change this, and for such a large area, it doesn't have it's own University. Way back in time, it didn't have much of anything else either. Most of the old town could, and frequently was, described as a stinking slum, full of all the rogues and vagabonds as ever lived. Brandy Row, the towns main den of iniquity, was inhabited by " bad girls ", as the description would have them. The constant use of foul language and depraved activities, was a source of constant complaints by the neighbours. This kind of behaviour went on all night, and with the available privies under the house, the stench from the overflow was appalling. There was no running water, and no proper drainage. In Pitts Fold, the waste products ran down a crude channel right outside the doors of the houses. The back yards of Greystone Street were swimming in filth, which ran down the slope and into the High Street. That must have made shopping a most delightful, but careful experience. Behind the properties in Queen's Cross Hill, just to add to the problem, was a row of stables, where the dung was piled high, which, combined with the atrocious conditions of the privies, produced a stench that must have turned even the strongest stomach. All the liquid from the place flowed under the houses, which were so badly built that they were on the move, and to make it a bit worse, a seam of coal underneath was on fire. Suffocated by the ghastly fumes, or burnt to death while sleeping, no wonder the only trade in Dudley to be in, that made money, was the Funeral business. Ravenscroft Yard, at the top of King Street, had the same problems with dung and privies, but at least it flowed away faster than in other places. Not so good though, if you happened to live at the bottom of King Street. There was drainage of a sort, some houses had Cesspools. Fine, if they were emptied regulary, but that cost money, far better to let them overflow, and then throw about the contents of a barrel of Choride of Lime. You wouldn't be surprised to know, that amongst these conditions, life expectancy was as low as 20 years. Conditions of almost in-describable filth and deprivation, could have been avoided, with the speedy addition of clean running water. Not to be though, as the Worthies of Dudley, a warring, backstabbing, tightfisted bunch of hypocrites, refused to finance such a scheme. Most of then, after all, didn't have to live in all this squalor, although a good many of them, actually owned the slum houses and broken down privies. When the large Cholera Epidemic in 1832 struck, the effect on the population was devastating, but still the arguments, over supplying clean water, raged on, unabated.

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

July 22, 2011 at 11:48 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

History tells us, that during the reign of George III, Dudley was granted a charter in 1791, to supply water to the Town. A bit of a forerunner to a compulsory purchase order, it entitled the authorites to take water from the springs and well in nearby Rowley Regis. From such places as Adams Well, Round Spring Well, Holy Bog Well, Squabby Bog, and Boggy Moor, wherever they were, to a point called Wadhams Pool, which was situated close to where Hall Street is today. The charter also allowed, for water to be extracted from Coopers Spring Well, and Walton Well, which were within the Towns boundry, and pumped again to Wadhams Pool. Given that the land to be used, and crossed, was owned by some powerful local families, i.e. The Rt Honarable William Lord Viscount Dudley, arguments developed, and the entire scheme was dropped in 1800. Meanwhile, the population of Dudley was increasing at a fast rate, and something urgent was required to alleviate the terrible conditions in the Town. In 1810, an effort was made to form The Dudley Waterworks Company, but again, arguments and petty squabbling over money by the Towns Gentry, put paid to this plan as well. Finally, after the dreadfull Cholera Epidemic of 1832, in 1834, the Waterworks Company got started. This however solved nothing, as the Company refused to supply water to the poor of the Town, preferring instead, the safer bet of being paid by the wealthier citizens. Only 25% of theTown was connected to the supply, the reason submitted by the Company, was that the rest would fail to pay, doing what was known as " Frequent Moonlight Flits ". Dudleys Medical Officer of health, Doctor John Houghton, was loud in his protests at this, and at one stage, it was suggested that he be removed from the post. In 1863, another enterprise arrived on the rather smelly scene, The South Staffordshire Water Company, and, although still facing opposition, gradually forced through the introduction of piped water for all. The mains supply, from Shavers End, and Parkes Hall, served the area well over the years, and today, the Company is still delivering, to the citizens of Dudley, good quality water, and an excellent service.

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

July 24, 2011 at 11:36 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Now if life wasn't hard enough during the 1870s, being cheekily cheated out of money was the last thing you needed. Adverts appeared in the local papers, for a brand new revolutionary time piece. It was described as having " an elegant enameled Dial, a fine Gilt case, and interspersed with Gold ", and a faultless keeper of Solar time ". Available for just 1 shilling, or by mail order for just 14 stamps, it could be ordered from Ward and Company, High Street Kinver, or from John Malpas's Shop, in Kidderminster. The timepiece was in fact a minature Sun Dial, and of course, as most of the population couldn't read very well, if at all, thousands were sold, most folk believing they were buying a pocket Watch. Most of them were made in that well renowned exotic sunny spot, called Wolverhampton, whose citizens possible hadn't seen the sun for several years. If the conditions didn't get you, and you managed to stay reasonable healthy, the conmen weren't very far behind. The weather that summer was appalling, so a great many people in Dudley at least, had a good excuse for being late for work.

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

January 4, 2012 at 3:23 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

1874 was a turbulent time in Dudley. Election fever had broken out and feeling on both side were running a bit high. Accusations of corruption and scandal were rife, and insults flew thick and fast. Meetings had been disrupted, with the hurling of rotten fruit and vegetables, and more than once the Police were forced to use the Riot Act, to break up unruly mobs. Come Election Day, and expecting trouble, most of the inhabitants sought the safety of their homes and stayed off the streets. Not so the opposing parties, they were out in some force. Each side had hired thugs, roughnecks, and known Pugilists, to assist in "pursuading" any voters of the " floating kind ". Now I'm not suggesting, that either contestant had any knowledge of the event that happened during this show of  "support ".  During an argument about said election, a night watchman was battered by two large blacksmiths, who then threw him off a railway bridge. He subsequently died from his injuries. It was to be expected that complaints would be made, and when it came up before a High Court Judge, he declared the Election null and void. The candidates, Mr Sheriden ( Labour ), and Mr N Hingley, were each blamed for causing the resultant riots, and were both ordered to pay their own costs of the Legal action. The Election was later re-run, when, in a calmer atmosphere, Mr Sheriden won with a majority of 716. It all makes Birmingham's " Banana Republic " election a few years ago, look rather a bit on the tame side really.

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

January 27, 2012 at 3:34 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Are there any Dudley Ghosts, I was asked sometime last week. Well there are certainly stories about Ghosts, but with a ruined Norman Castle in the town, thats to be expected. Tower Street, Dudley, was the reputed site of an old ghost, and a seafaring ghost at that. The story goes that a Sailor, a native of Dudley, returned from many years at sea, and came back looking for his parents. He needed somewhere to stay, and put up in a  " Doss House ", in Tower street, run by a Miss Fry. During the night, he appears to have vanished, his meagre possesions scattered around the empty room. Anything of any value had been taken. The town Constable made a search of the house, including the celler where Miss Fry did her work as a seamstress, but no trace was found. The townsfolk were roped in, and no trace of the sailor was found in any of the mean streets here either. Now according to local legends, from the time the sailor disappeared, awful groans and knocking noises were heard from the cellar. They were especially loud around winter-time. Several owners of the property, never used the cellar, as many members of the various companies staff, refused to go into it. The roof, about 5 feet high is vaulted, and the brickwork rather patchy, showing what looked like, a walled up section. So was the sailor murdered for his money, are his old bones still concealed behind the old bricks, and does he still groan at the injustice done to him. 30 odd years ago, the building was occupied by Midland Hearing Services, and they believed that something was causing a very disturbing atmosphere in that cellar. Anyone in Dudley care to add a comment.


The next one goes back to 1870, and the building of a new house close to the Monastry Ruins. While excavating the foundations the workmen came across a substantial brick wall. This turned out to be a subterranean chamber, which butted up against the old Monastry wall. The future owne of the said house, ordered the workmen to break into the structure as he didn't want any further delays. According to the reports, they all got a bit of a shock. The first thing they found was some thick oak panelling, the second, was the unmistakable figure of what had once been a women, seated at an old table. The skeleton was seated in an antique chair, and it's skull was resting on it's boney elbow. There were still clothes on the old bones, a table cloth of sorts, plates, knifes, forks, jug, snuff box, and a set of candlesticks." Dudley's experts ", surmised that the skeleton was over 300 years old, but how it came to be in a sealed up chamber, no explanation was offered. There have been some reports since, that the misty figure of an old lady has been seen wandering about the old ruins, so did they disturb, or release a trapped spirit. Mind you, the old Victorians loved a good joke, and if anyone finds a reference to this story, have a look at the date, it may turn out to be 1 st April.

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

February 16, 2012 at 3:38 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Just before the turn of the century, came this little gem from the records. One of the staples of the peoples diets, and is still very popular today, was Cheese. On Market, Fairs, and Wake days, the Town attracted a large number of Cheese Factors. These people roamed the countryside buying up surplus Cheese cheaply, in a manner similar to the dreaded Nail Factors. They very rarely sold their wares actually in the market, but preferred the streets and alleyways. In July 1791, following many complaints about short measures and quality, someone decided to do something about it. The propietors of the market, issued a notice, stating that in future, all the Cheese to be sold, had to be first lodged, and then sold, in a room at the Town Hall, when proper and tested weights would be available. Quality would be cheacked at the same time, for which the seller had to pay a Toll, and be responsible for the security of their Cheeses overnight. There were some fairly hefty fines for anyone caught selling in the streets, and imprisonment for using short measures. You might think, that all this was for the benefit of the poor hard done by folfk of Dudley, but no, it wasn't. The notice was signed by Thomas Burne, Clerk to the Propietors of the Market, who was non other than Lord Ward, Earl of Dudley, and who was losing money when the Cheese Factors refused to rent a market stall. If I had to express an opinion, I would have said the whole deal stank of profiteering, very much the same as the rotten Cheese.

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

May 12, 2012 at 3:31 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

For the good folk of Dudley, who may have recently moved to the Town, or indeed, been born within the last twenty years, and who havn't heard any history about the old fountain. It replaced the old Town Hall, which had stood on the same spot since 1660. This by now decaying old ruin was pulled down in the second part of the 1800s, the little roads that ran each side of it merged, and the Market Place, expanded. The Earl of Dudley, no doubt feeling in a generous mood, suggested that a nice fountain would look good, and provide some refreshment to the busy shoppers and their horses. He just so happened to know a man who could accomplish such a feat, the sculptor James Forsyth. Now it just so happens, that Mr Forsyth, the creator of this masterpiece, was also the creator of an even bigger masterpiece, The Huge 120 foot water  "Poseidon" fountain at Witley Court in Worcestershire. He was not a cheap worker either, for the whole fountain in Dudley cost a little over £3,000. It was erected, and declared open, or should that be " turned on " by Lady Dudley in 1867. Over the years, it has suffered greatly in the weather, and in more recent times, from the attention of vandals. The older generation, ever with a eye on a bit of humour, call this edifice " The Spout ", although I don't think any water has issued from it for many years. Pity really, it's one of the few things the Earls of Dudley left as a legacy. Mind you, they never had to pay out for the water.

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

May 17, 2013 at 3:38 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

A quick peek into the lives of the inhabitants of Dudley, and a look at what they were up to 164 years ago this month, in 1850.


Two landlords were in trouble with the law, both of them from the Queens Cross area. Unfortunatly for them, this was the beat of P.C.Cooke, and he seems to have had eyes in the back of his head. Hannah Power, beer retailer of some renown, and with her own eye on a profit, was caught fair and square by the Dudley copper, selling outside of the permitted hours. It was alleged, that the eager copper had concealed himself behind some barrels in the yard, and burst in on the jolly party. She was fined 5 shillings with costs. Joseph Cartwright, another Queens Cross beer seller, was a bit more crafty, but not nearly as crafty as PC Cooke. When closing time approached, the landlord simply sent his customers down into the celler, and carried on serving. Cooke noticed that far fewer came out, than went in, so maintained a watch, and when he thought enough time had passed for the party to start, he hammered on the door. Cartwright refused to let him in, and his customers escaped, via the celler trap doors, and legging it over the yard wall. Cooke simply waited, and watched some more, and the next time, a few days later, he prepared an ambush, and he was not alone this time. While another copper banged on the door for admittance, Cooke and his Superintendant waited at the rear. One by one, 15 men were taken into custody as they emerged from the celler. Cartwright was fined 20 shillings, and each man 5 shillings, and of course, the costs. Cooke wasn't the top cop in Dudley either, for that accolade went to P.C. Smitheman, who, in time, would rise to the rank of Superintendant. Now if Cartwright thought he was clever, a relative, Benjamin Cartwright, landlord of The King and Queen in Stafford Street, was the exact opposite. One evening, two " ladies" , widow Mary Ann Chambers, and her friend, Hannah Capewell, were knocking back a few in Cartwrights kitchen, the bar being full. It came to their attention that there was a folded handkerchief on the table, which when opened, contained £7. 5 shillings. For two women, who had probably never seen so much money in one place, the temptation was too much, and they pocketed the lot, handkerchief as well. It was some time before the theft was noticed, by which time the two had legged it as fast as four wobbly legs could go. Enter the long nose of the law, P.C.Smitheman. To be fair, the trail the two left was easy to follow. They had spread the money around town like confetti, buying expensive items from many shops, and flashing the dosh around the towns many pubs. On searching Chambers house, Smitheman easily found the handkerchief, and some of the silver they hadn't as yet spent. This earned them a few months in gaol, but at least they had a few momories of the high life. Meanwhile, back on P.C.Cookes beat, and together with a comrade, P.C. Phillips, they had uncovered one of Dudleys little secrets. A Brothel. Surely not you may think, not in Dudley,  but sadly, it was so. A very naughty woman, called Elizabeth Cross, had indeed set up a house of ill-repute. Dragged in front of the Magistrates, she protested her innocence, all to avail, as her character was described as very bad by the Officers of the law. Fearing no doubt an epidemic of such places, they committed her to the next Assizes, where it was hoped, her sentence would be a lesson to those who harboured the same ambitions.


Finally, to one of Dudleys desperate criminals, Thomas Jones. By trade a carter, not a big man either, but rather loth to pay his dues, and when confronted, liable to desperate actions. On the 15th January, he had committed one of these actions by refusing to pay the Toll at the gate at Dudley Port. The Magistrates fined him 20 shillings with costs, which was a large sum for a poor carter to pay. Mind you, he did admit that he had driven his horse and cart through the Toll gate, sadly, it was firmly shut at the time.

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

February 3, 2014 at 3:51 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Not all of the criminals in Dudley actually got into a Court of Law, although you may wonder why after the next little tale. Elsewhere on the website, ( Workhouse Facts and Tales ) there are a few mentions of the state of the districts Poor House, namely the rather poorly run Workhouse on the Burton Road. No sooner had one scandel died down, that another raised it's ugly head. Dudley Union Workhouse, was made up of the districts of Dudley itself, Sedgley No. 1 and No.2, Tipton, and Rowley Regis, and a bit of skullduggery was suspected.


In mid 1883, an item arose at the Board Meeting of the Workhouse. Someone suggested, that the Relieving Officers for Sedgley Tipton and Rowley should be dismissed for being inefficient. This was a polite way of saying ' a bunch of crooks '. ( A Relieving Officer was responsible for handing out money to the various Paupers of the Parish, and of course, accounting for the cash.)  James Steventon, the Officer for Dudley, which had 1,453 paupers on the books, had the lowest figure for cash handed out, despite the highest number of paupers. It was suggested that he should take over the duties of some of the other Officers, especially Rowley Regis. It's not to hard to work out, that a fiddle was going on, and once again, the poor hard done by rate payers were footing the bill. The Union rules allowed, for those who needed assistance, could be cared for outside of the Workhouse, or those who were simply too sick to walk, to have their money delivered directly. This was the Relieving Officers job, but many of the sick, assigned a relative to collect it, and the system was wide open to abuse. In Rowley Regis, there were 815 paupers registered on the books, and over 220 of these had their money collected, or sent out. It was suspected, and with some good reasons, that many claims were fraudulent, the Relieving Officer having made up, or colluded with others, in faking the names and circumstances. The situation in Tipton, with 1,107 paupers, was similar to Dudley, for both Relieving Officers were honest and honourable men. When the original suggestion was made, the Officers for Sedgley District numbers 1 and 2, respectively Mr Hughes, ( 923 paupers ) and Mr Langstone, ( 817 paupers ) protested that James Steventon was in fact prosecuting the poor, and failing to hand out the correct amounts. This was untrue, as the financial records and receipts clearly showed. The Fraud, which it certainly was, had eaten so far into the Workhouse funds, that the conditions in the Workhouse were appalling. The place was overcrowded, especially the Imbecile Wards, which were without any standards of order, or care. One patient, Annie Fletcher, after receiving a letter from her mother that they couldn't afford to have her back home, in full view of the occupants of the ward, cut her throat, and died on the spot. Needless to say, changes were made, for this total waste of public money could not be tolerated. Of secondary importance it seems, was the lack of any decent care for the elderly and infirm of the districts of the Union. Now I know what some will be thinking about this subject, which has been much in the news recently, but this was a 124 years ago, and we have moved on since then, haven't we ???

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

September 25, 2014 at 3:38 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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