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Alaska.
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Upper Gornal, Pigeons, Ruiton, Salt, The Crooked House, Donkeys.


Upper Gornal, Lower Gornal, and Gornalwood, throw in Ruiton, and we have an area, that although part of Dudley now, at one time, it's inhabitants would have spat at you, for uttering the word. A very proud race were the old Gornalites. Not that they arn't now of course, it's just that times have changed a bit. Well known for being hard working miners in the past, this was not the only way they could earn a living. From the very ground beneath their hob nailed boots, they extracted some fine sand. Mind you they did have to crush the rock to get it, but it was in always in demand. It was ground up by the simple means of a horse, a wooden pole, and a large round stone, that the horse dragged round in endless circles all day. It was sold, in the days before fancy washing up liquids, to scour out pots and pans. It was very popular with housewifes to sprinkle on the stone flagged floors after washing, to prevent slipping up. The Sand was hawked around the districts on little carts pulled by Donkeys, and as the sellers had a reputation for being as thick as the animals, the name for both was Gornal Donkeys. Another product much in demand was Salt, and as there was always a gap, between having enough sand to sell, on the days when they didn't, the women went out selling Salt. Most folk believed the Salt came from Gornal, it didn't, it was imported from Droitwich in large blocks, and cut up for the customers. They may not have appeared to be very bright, but they certainly had their heads properly screwed on. Another " noted fact ", was that Gornalites were really tight fisted, hiding their money behind loose bricks, under speciall y marked floor tiles, and even in the vegetable plots. There is a story, that one mans son had to drag his father to the Post Office, prise off the lid of a battered old tin, and deposit over £1,000. So long had it been in the ground, that all the notes were mildewed, and after counting, the Post Office had to be fumigated. A notable feature of Ruiton, is a strange Tower, that was once a house. It was in fact an old windmill, constructed in the early 1800s to grind a bit of corn. Local rumour says there were once two, but Ruiton never got enough wind for both of them. Apart from Drinking, and of course going to Chapel, although I don't know which of the two came first on a Sunday, the main sport of many past Gornalites was Pigeon Racing. So many birds were in the air of a weekend, that the good folk of Dudley complained of a lack of light. Not to mention the whiteness of the Church Steeple, and all the messages of " good luck " that rained down. It was recorded, that a Gornal Collier, shortly to breath his last, asked the Vicar if he would have wings in the next world. Assuring him that he had led a good life on earth, he would be made into an Angel, complete with wings. Well he said, if we both have wings when we get there, how about a race for a quid. Mining finished in Gornal in the 1960s, the Sand and Salt selling a long time before. There's a large Housing Estate on the Straits now, and no trace of the activity is evident. You could say, it's almost reverted back to it's origines as a series of small village's, and seems to be more part of Sedgley, than Dudley. Just down the road lies a famous midland attraction, The Glynne Arms, the old farm of the family of the same name. Undermined at one end, by the Earl of Dudleys frantic digging for coal and wealth, it's more popular name is The Crooked House. I think many old Gornalites still use yet another name, The Siden House, but then again, thats what the natives are like, so I am told, a bit proud, independent, and different.

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

August 9, 2011 at 4:24 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

Gornal Wood, Himley, Explosions, Police.


Did you know, that back in October, 1864, during a nasty and bad tempered miners strike, some very brutal reprisals were committed against those prepared to work. One such brave ( or very foolish, depending on your point of view ) man, was Joseph Roberts, who accepted the Earl of Dudleys lower wage, and continued to work at the pit in Himley. He lived in a small cottage, in Gornal Wood, not far away from the " Crooked House ". ( Glynne Arms ) Despite Major McKnight, the Deputy Chief Constable of Staffordshire, having at his disposal, some 150 Militia and numerous Policemen, he was unable to prevent what happened to poor old Joseph. As the family slept, on the 15th of that month, someone threw an object into the upper floor, the sound of breaking glass waking the sleeping family up. Before they could investigate, there was a tremendous explosion, which blew the entire roof off the cottage. By some strange power, although shaken and covered in dust and debris, non of the family were injured. This was the third such incident since the strike had started, and to date, no one had been arrested or charged. No mine owner either, would admit that explosives were missing from there stores. A wise move I think, especially in view of the fact that a Nail Wharehouse, not far away, had been totally demolished, after it's owner had repeatedly refused credit, to a mining/nailmaking family. Not everything, that goes bump in the night, is entirely harmless.

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

December 12, 2011 at 4:53 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Gornal, Bare Knuckle Boxing, Shutt End, Brierley Hill, Birmingham, Kinver.


Now there's always been a certain amount of rivalry between a lot of towns in the Black Country, and in the first post above, I detailed a few. Good natured insults, well I think they were, abounded. I was going to add this story to the Bare Knuckle Boxing topic, but decided to put it in here instead, as it involves a bit of local pride, rather than a title fight.


The old distinctions between towns and little hamlets, has disappeared today, but back in the 1830s, it was much more pronounced. Several small communities make up the area most of us know today as Gornal, inhabited by a proud tribal band known as Gornalites. Mostly Miners and Nailers back then, there main forms of enjoyment being drinking and gambling. Just over two miles to the south, lies another area, equally adept at the same forms of entertainment, and composed mainly of Iron and Glass workers. Brierley Hill. Open air entertaiment, for both places, included Prize fighting, where of course, Beer and Gambling played a part. In Brierley Hill, resided one Charley Hedge, an Iron Puddler, who was useful with his fists, and known to all in the town, as 'The Brierley Hill Pet.'  Over the " border ", the Gornalites also had a good man, John Bate, known as " The one eyed Wonder ". ( I've said elsewhere, I have not made up these names.) After a great deal of bragging by both towns, a match between the two, was arranged in 1835. The Gornalites went home with their heads down and their pockets empty, as Hedge battered their man into the middle of the next century. Many a family went hungry after the fight, but being a determined bunch, they quickly found another likely man to re-coup the lost pride. ( and of course the money )  The new man was Jem ( James ) Hall, a collier with a fine pair of shoulders, and some boxing skill. He was born in 1811, possibly at Shut End, as the place chosen for his christening was Saint Mary's Kingswinford. There was certainly no evidence of them being Gornal Donkeys in what they did next though, they sent their man off to train with the renowned Hammer Lane, and Jack Sutton, at Suttons gym, above his Pub, The Cross Guns, in Summer Street, Birmingham. This action was planned at the The Green Dragon in Gornal, and word soon reached the good folk of Brierley Hill, who arranged something similar for their man with another Birmingham man, Harry Preston. The fight was arranged for 22 November,1836, and the venue was set for Kinver Edge, a place that would be fairly safe from the local police. The stakes were quite modest, £20 a side, winner takes all. The scene then, was all set for a mighty battle, and boths side began to beg, or borrow, every last penny they could lay their hands on. as betting fever struck the area.So much monet was bet, that the Birmingham bookies had to lay off agreat amount, as they couldn't cover it all. So what happened next you may ask.



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

April 6, 2012 at 4:03 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Kinver, Gornal, Jem Hall, Bare Knuckle Boxing.


Revenge is sweet.


On a cold, frosty, and misty morning in late November, 1836, long lines of trudging people could be observed, all making their merry way to an even colder spot at Kinver Edge. Some had money left to bet on the fight round by round, but most of them had bet all they had. Both towns, in a short space of time, were reduced to silence as the inhabitants deserted their work and joined the long trail. Concidered in other circles to be bad form, the crowd was swelled by a very large number of women, including Jem Hall's mouthy "wife", Maria. They would be able to console their men if they lost, but more importantly, take some of the winnings before the men spent it all on celebratery beer. Maria Hall was well known for her support of her husband, and the terrible oath and language she would hurl from the ringside at the opposition. Today, this hariden of the Pit Banks, would be no different, as she took her place on a bale of straw by the ropes. Of the two fighters, Jem Hall was the bigger, at 12 stone 6lbs, and 5 foot 9inches. He was younger, at 25, against the 30 years of Charley Hedge, but the latter was muscular and stocky, and a very dangerous opponent. Rather unkindly I thought, both were described as not resembling any Oil Paintings, and it was difficult to tell if Hall was smiling or grimicing. Hedge, it was said, looked like something from a quest for the missing link that so enthralled the later Victorians. They did also say, that if Jem Hall had been at the back of the queue when the looks were handed out, Charley Hedge hadn't even turned up. Maria Hall was soon in action, shouting for homicidal blood, and she didn't have long to wait, as it was soon spilled, from both men. The fight became a see-saw, as first one, then the other, looked liked winning. By the fourth round, Hedge was looking a lot uglier than when they started, and he continued to take punishment for the next 14 rounds. Then in the 19th round, with Hall getting a bit too cocky, he leapt forward and smashed Hall in the head, and then battered him with several more hard blows. Reeling against the ropes, Hedge then grabbed him by the throat, ( A perfectly legal move at the time ) and rained more blows on him. Only the ring craft of Hall's trainer, Hammer Lane saved the day, using his strength, he pulled the ropes, and both men fell out of the ring, ending the round. Maria then tried to get at the Brierley Hill Pet, but was restrained by Harry Preston who seated her firmly back on her straw bale. Jem's other trainer now poured half a bottle of brandy down his throat, which seemed to revive him somewhat, and the fight went on. Prize fighting was mostly a trial of strength, and by round 38, Hedge's was fast disappearing, and after several heavy body blows in the 39th, Hall threw him to the ground. ( Also a legal move at the time ) This time Charly Hedge, for all his courage did not get up, he couldn't, he was unconscious. After 1 hour and 14 minutes of furious action, the Gornalites, cheering loudly, carried their battered victor from the ring, and bore him off to The Gate Hangs Well, in Kinver Village. All this by the way for a purse of just £20 a side. Charley Hedges never fought again, and surprisingly, the two became firm friends. United further, later on, when Hall's son married Hedge's daughter. This time, there was much drinking  and celebrating in Gornal, although as employment conditions worsened, it would soon all be forgotten. Can't beat a good bit of excitement though, can you.

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

April 6, 2012 at 4:54 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

There's a famous story about a pig, thats supposed to have originated in Gornal. This particular tale however, although it has some truth in it, almost certainly came from the tap room of " The Fiddle ", a notorious drinking den of the old Town. A man by the name of " Johnny Longstomach ", reputed to be 6 foot 7 inches in his hob-nailed boots, and as thin as a lath. He was supposed to be a ' hawker ', and sold fruit and veg from an old cart, pulled by a rather temperamental Donkey, around the district. Although not, as it is related, when there was strong wind blowing, for he would have ended up in Pensnett. He was never known to have passed a pub when he had money in his pocket, and consequently, very rarely finished his round. This was never a problem it seemed, for the Donkey knew the way home, and as soon as Longstomach had been loaded on the Cart, off he would go. He also kept Pigs, and the story goes, that one afternoon, he was well lubricated, the local Band came marching past, and he lifted the Pig onto a wall, so he could watch as well. To illustrate this tale, someone, doctored a postcard, copies of which were a frequent sight in the local pubs. It's not true of course, but Gornalites love a good laugh. Other tales however are true enough, as the tale of the " Seven Bowled Pipe ", that hung on the back of a door at the Fiddle tavern. One Nehemiah Burrows, was the only Gornal man recorded as keeping all seven bowls going at the same time. Before 1900, so the tale goes, and he had lungs of a similar nature, as to a Blacksmiths bellows. The area has produced some tough men as well over the years. Jem Scunner, who took on, and lost to the Tipton Slasher is one, another being Tom Griffiths, the long standing licencee of " The Fountain Inn ", ( 50 years no less ) Lower Gornal. Born in 1869, he developed an interest in many sports, and was fine exponant of the " noble art " . He was Amateur Champion of England in 1892, and even sparred with World Champion Jack Johnson. Just how he managed to get to the ripe old age of 78, is a matter of some speculation, as on one occasion, he took on a dare, and entered the Lions cage at a Dudley Fairground. He still had the Gold medal when he died in 1947. The miners provided most of the fighting muscle of the period, and amongst them was Joesph ( Dandy ) Cartwright.  Born in 1890, he missed all the bare knuckle stuff, but had a fair reputation around the Countries Boxing Rings. He died in February 1975, the old slugger finally being counted out at 84. If there's any Gornalite out there with something to add, do let me know. And for those who may think I made up that bit about the Pipe, it's featured in my Images from the Forums Album.

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

June 29, 2013 at 3:18 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404



Already mentioned, is that little place on the maps called Ruiton, from where the famous Salt Sellers came. They were a very religious bunch of folk hereabouts, for the Independent Congregational Church, off Holloway Street, was established in the mid 1770s. It's a rather unadorned structure, looking more like a prison from one side, with it's iron framed windows. Not only is it still in operation, at the front, it has an interesting collection of elaborate headstones, mostly celebrating the lives of some wealthy salt sellers. Which goes to show, that if you put your mind to the task, you can achieve what you aim at. The old Chapel though has suffered some disturbances in it's time, for all the mining, caused one end to begin to fall down, and only some drastic measures saved it from collapse. The surrounding area has changed a bit as well, for up to the 1930s, I believe, there was a pretty little row of cottages alongside the Church, called Hermitage Row, commemorated by the name today, of Hermit Street.



Someone, at the start of the 20th century, decided to sell a few postcards of the scene, and one can be seen, attached to this post, as can a picture of a typical salt seller, on her way to making a few bob around the towns of the Black Country.



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

June 12, 2014 at 3:06 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

In a previous post, I mentioned two Windmills in Gornal, well I recently came across a brief reference to one of them. Up for sale, in 1860, was Ruiton New Mill House, which confirms a previous mill, which had, or still did, exist  on the windy hill. The sale included, as well as the Mill, outbuildings, a large Garden, Pasture land, and two Cottages, all rented out to a Mr Paul Thompson. Sadly, the yearly rent wasn't quoted, but I shouldn't have thought it would have exceeded £15 a year. The place got further mentions in the Press in 1882 when a local Collier called Harris, tried, but failed as it happens, to Murder his wife while drunk, in their house in Kent Street. The local Coroner paid a small tribute to a another Gornal miner, Samuel Bowen, who was killed in Lord Dudley's Sedgley Colliery, when the roof came down. Bowen had previously been a soldier, and during the famous Indian Mutiny, had performed several outstanding acts of bravery, for which he recieved a Gallantry Medal. A sad end said the Coroner, for a brave man. On to May,1915, and Gornal was again in the newspapers. This time it was fire, in the cottage of Arthur Cartwright, caused by a picture on a wall. Now you may be wondering about that, but it's simple really, the picture fell off the wall and landed on an oil lamp while he, his wife Betsy, and young baby were sound asleep. The 17 month old child was suffocated by the smoke, and Arthur died from the same cause, a few days later in Hospital in Wolverhampton. Although serious affected, Betsy did survive the fire. Now I get asked for all kinds of information, so for those who inquired, here is a Gornal Murder. On April 30th,1936, John Dando, 43, a miner living in Kent Street, battered his wife with the fire tongs, and then proceeded to cut her throat. ( just to make sure I presume ) The couple had five children at the time, and there is a slight suspicion that number six was on the way. John Dando had married his wife, the former Leah Rollason, in Dudley, just before the first World War began, and had served in the Royal Garrison Artillery. Said to be suffering from " Melancoly " and other mental problems, he was ordered to be detained in a secure Lunatic Hospital, " at His Majesty's pleasure ". I don't know how long he served, or where, but his death was recorded in Dudley in 1955. Why he killed his wife is a puzzle, but you could put him down as another victim of the War, for he had no problems prior to his enlistment.

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

December 5, 2014 at 4:31 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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