Black Country Muse

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Alaska. at July 9, 2013 at 2:20 PM

There's always been a bit of confusion amongst those who don't know, that Cradley, should not be included with Cradley Heath. It's an ancient place is Cradley, Worcestershire, just a short journey from Halesowen, and an even shorter one from the other place. Never the less, they are as different as chalk is from cheese, as the inhabitants will quickly tell you. The place is full of old family names, Bloomer, Homer, Hill, Cox, Parsons, Priest, Westwood, Webster, Beasley, Attwood, and many more, who were long associated with the Iron trade, mainly you will be told, Chainmaking. One name I havn't mentioned so far, is Hodgetts, a long line of whom, stretch far back in the history of Cradley. One of the clan, Benjamin Hodgetts, was the proud father of nine children, all of his sons went into the same trade as himself. Luckily, Benjamin saved a few bob, and, as a sideline, began to sell meat from a small shop on the corner of High Street, and Intended Street. The Chainmaker became a partime Butcher. It was the eldest son, Joseph Hodgetts, who, after he married Fanny Haden, in 1901, took over control of the shop. This allowed his parents to take life a bit easier, for the shop did well, even employing a couple of young lads to help out. Born in 1873, Joseph was of course never short of help anyway, most of the family lived within a short walk of the shop, and their parents home in Intended Street. Maple Tree Lane, Colley Lane, High Town, High Street, Lyde Green, in fact there probably weren't many places where the family hadn't put down roots.


                                                                                                                                                                                           

The photograph above is an interesting shot of the shop, and the family. Joseph Hodgetts is the man with his arms folded and the satisfied look on his face, and no wonder given the ammount of meat he has hanging up. Standing behind him is his young wife Fanny Hodgetts, also looking a bit on the happy side for this picture ws taken a few months after her marriage, the year being 1902. Visable, over her right shoulder, are the unmistakable silver whiskers of Joseph's father, Benjamin Hodgetts. The young lad, front and centre, is Alfred Turner, smartly turned out for a 12 year old, and wearing one of those new fangled celluloid collars. He lived in Lyde Green. The other, and older lad, is Ethelred Webster, the first time I have come across that name, other than in the dark ages, in 30 years of research. The rather rotund gentleman on the right, next to Joseph, is Thomas Partridge, an Anchor Smith by trade, and a workmate of Josephs father. He lived in Intended Street as well, although he was born in Old Hill. Staffordshire. His was normally called " Barrs " Partridge when at work, to distinguish him from the other Partridge clan,  because of where he was born, Barrs Road, Haden Hill. Joseph Hodgetts had raised three children when war broke out in 1914, and he must have been an early volunteer, for he was listed as being in France on 14th July,1915, with the South Staffordshire Regiment. He was discharged into the reserves on 18th February,1919, by which tme he had gained the rank of Sergeant. He was later photographed, at his parents Golden Wedding celebrations wearing his ceremonial uniform, on 15th April,1922. His father died in 1926, after a lifetime hammering chains, and he himself passed on in 1949. The Butchers shop though,carried on for a number of years, outliving the chain trade by many years, perhaps someone will be kind enough to let me know.

Any ideas on the date of this photo please? Thank you 

October 12, 2019 at 2:21 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Andy Wooldridge
Member
Posts: 1

Alaska. at November 10, 2011 at 2:45 PM

Chainmaking, Stoke, Ford Green, Burslem, Lye, Quarry Bank.


In response, to several people who have asked, just where in Stoke-on-Trent, did these chainmakers and their families settle. The Ford Green Iron Works, was founded in the 19th century, in a place called Smallthorne. This was an area just to the east of the more well known Burslem, and was well served by the canals, and contained at least 5 coal mines. Smallthorne, I believe, up until 1922, was fairly independent from both Burslem, and Stoke itself. Ford Green Iron Works, did mainly forge work, and the need for skilled workman in the early days, resulted in a few recruitment drives. The main products being Chain, Cable, and Anchors, led to them taking on men from the Black Country Chain Trade. Many families, from Cradley, Cradley Heath, Quarry Bank, and Lye, made the transistion, and settled in Smallthorne, Norton, and nearby Burslem. To make them feel at home, there was a strong community based on Primitive Methodism, something that most of them would be very familiar with. There will be many names, still in the area, that will be found in the Black Country Towns they left behind. I have uploaded a photograph into the Gallery, complete with some names, it dates from about 1914, just before the War broke out, and was taken in Burslem.

Hi there and thanks for the add. I have seen a copy of this picture, a long time ago, which had all of the names on it. I am particularly interested because I am descended from one of the men in the picture. His name is William Wooldridge, he was born in Lye and died in Smallthorne. He married a lady named Round who may be related to the man William is sitting next to in the picture. If I can obtain the full list of names I will forward it on to Alaska to update the photo. My family has traced back up to 3 generations ( I think ) before William, all of whom lived around the Lye area. I look forward to hearing from any relatives who still live in the area.

February 3, 2019 at 1:50 PM Flag Quote & Reply

carol roberts
Member
Posts: 2

Alaska. at August 4, 2012 at 3:12 PM

Birmingham Hangings, Winson Green.


Now I did say, that some of the hangings concerned a few from the Blackcountry, so here are a selection. In 1896. In Brearly Street, Lozells, lived a young girl, May Lewis, on March 10th, 1896, she was violated and brutally murdered, she was just turned 10 years old. Her murderer, 23 year old Frank Taylor, was a young Draper, born in Sutton Coldfield, in 1873. He was hanged at Winson Green Prison on 18th August,1896. The next execution that was sent down from Stafford Assizies was of one Henry Gaskin, his date of despatch being 8th August 1919. He had been born, Thomas Henry Gaskin, in Lichfield, Staffordshire, 1891, and was aged 28 when hanged and not 22 as listed on some sites. He had married Elizabeth Talbot, in Cannock, in March,1913, when she was just turned 17, and several months pregnant. The child died before the year was out. He wasn't happy about what she had been up to while he was way in the Army, and reportedly strangled her. The next year,1920, after a short marriage, in September 1920, Samuel Westwood,26, killed his wife, the former Lydia Vaughan, by stabbing her in the neck, outside the Prince of Wales public house, in Walsall Street, Willenhall.  He was hanged on Thursday 30th December,1920. Edward O'Connor, a Railway Clerk, for reasons not clear, in 1921, killed his youngest child, Thomas. Normally, any sign of insanity would have meant life imprisonment, but in this case, no mercy was granted, and he was hanged on 22nd December,1921. The next in this selection is that of Elijah Pountney, who, in 1922, cut his wifes throat in what was, a fit of insane jealousy. Whether or not Alice Gertrude Pountney was indeed playing the field, ( Covered in the " More Nasty Murders " topic ) the Home Secretary refused to change the sentence, and he was hanged on 11th August, 1922. The last one of the selection, like most of the executions, was another sordid case of sex. Jeremiah Hanbury was a 49 year old Widower, who had been having " relations " with a married 39 year old woman, Jessie Payne. On the afternoon of 17th October,1932, he left his cottage at 18, New Town, Brockmoor, near Brierley Hill, walked the short distance to Leys Crescent, hit Mrs Payne with a hammer, then slit her throat. After attempting to do the same to himself, and failing, he gave himself up. Not mentioned at the trial, which began on 8th December,1932, was that Jessie Payne had long been suspected of procuring abortions, including one which had been the result of her " relations " with Hanbury. He had clearly planned it all, and was found guilty, an appeal being dismissed on 16th January,1933. He was hanged, on 2nd February,1933, in the confines of Winson Green. ( More detailed accounts of some of these murders, can be found in the book, Black Country Murders, by Ian M. Bott. )

The first murder you mentioned was 10 year old May Lewis who was brutally murdered by 23 year old Frank Taylor, a draper from Sutton Coldfield. My late mother related to us what she was told as a young girl. She even remembered the mans name. May Lewis would have been her Aunty (Mom was born in 1920) and she was told May was murdered but, in those days, she would not have been told that she was raped. This information you have given me is very much appreciated, as it will be entered in a family tree for my grandchildren to keep. I am now going to research Frank Taylor, as I now have his date of birth and home town. Thank you very much
August 8, 2017 at 11:10 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1409

It's been said already on this website, that there's really no such thing as an " expert ". All too often, those who call themselves by this title, disappoint those who place a trust in them. There are a few however, who sometimes demonstrate an rather uncanny nack of producing the right results, at the right time. Way back in 1922, a rather large Black Country factory, purchased a very complicated piece of machinery. It upped the productions level by 30%, and the management were pleased as punch at this result. One morning, the mighty machine suddenly stopped working. No amount of inspections, oiling, tinkering, switching it on and off, or indeed the buckets full of bad language hurled at the motionless pile of iron and steel, made any difference. The Management gave up, and called in an expert. He arrived promptly, on a rather rusty old BSA Bicycle, removed his bike clips, and began a walk around the silent machine. Then he went back to his bike, and removed a hammer from it's battered old saddle bag. He proceeded to tap on the machine with the hammer for a few minutes, then went and sat in the works canteen, consuming a nice cup of tea. 15 minutes later, he arose, told them to switch on the machine and it would now work. Much to everyones surprise, it did. Two days later the company received a bill for £10, which the Company accountant was unhappy with, and asked for it to be itemised. It came back like this.


Item 1. To tapping the machine with a hammer.       £1.00.

Item 2. Knowing exactly where to tap.                        £9.00

                                          Total.                                          £10.00


Now I don't know about you, but thats what I would class as an expert.

                                                 

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

December 15, 2014 at 3:47 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1409

Back now to four wheels, and the famous makers of Engines, Sunbeam. The company produced mainly aero engines and one in particular, the 300 horse powered V12 Manitou. It was only ever fitted to one aircraft, the Short 184, which wasn't a success, and then the Engine was used for trials in two speed boats built by S.E. Saunders, and trialed off the Isle of Wight.



Returned to the factory, in 1922, Sunbeam used it in their new 350hp racing car, and took it to the speed trials at Saltburn. It reached speeds of over 120mph, and impressed one of the spectators, Malcolm Campbell. He bought the car, and the next year at the trials, he attained a speed of 137.72 over a flying kilometre course. After discussions with the reps from another Wolverhampton Company, Boulton and Paul, the car was sent to their Norwick factory where it was streamlined, and a longer tail put on. Campbell took it to Pendine Sands in Wales in 1924, and after some test runs, on the 24th September, achieved a new land speed record of 146.16mph. Sunbeam were delighted, and assisted the next year, when in July, again at Pendine, on 21st July, the car, with an estatic Campbell at the wheel, broke the record again with a mighty 150.76mph. Sunbeam engineering had again proved to be of the highest quality. The car is preserved at the Beaulieu Motor Museum, where the engine has undergone, what turned out to be a difficult re-fit, as no plans for the almost one off engine exist. This week, with fingers crossed it was fired up and works perfectly, although the gearbox, being in a rather delicate condition, meant that car can't move. This item is also now under restoration, and it is hoped, at a future date, the car will again run as was originally intended. There is a similar engine, preserved, at the Black Country Living Museum. Malcolm Campbell would be chuffed, as would the rather clever engineers who made the engine in Upper Villiers Street, Wolverhampton.



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

January 30, 2014 at 2:59 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1409

It was of course, only a matter of time before the Coal ran out. It would have all lasted longer if the mine owners had adopted a more efficient way of working the Seams. In other regions the " Long Wall Method " was in use, but here, the chosen method was to leave pillers of coal, and work the seam via a system of short " Stalls ". Not only was this wasteful, but when it came to remove the pillers to mine the coal, very dangerous as well. The first generation of Miners, having plenty of coal to mine, simply abandoned the old workings, and started afresh, it was when the second, and then third generation came along, that old flooded and gas filled pits became a dreadful hazard. By the turn of the century, there were more miners than pits to work, and work was even harder to find after the First World War ended. The area around Rowley Regis, Cradley and Old Hill, was finished off in 1921, when a strike shut down the Drainage Mines as well as the working ones, leaving them flooded and forevermore unworkable. Some did struggle on though, the smaller ones, higher up the water table, or those with shallower seams. The Corngreaves Colliery, owned by Robert Fellows being one, and New British Collieries, owned by Garrett and Company, being the other. The brothers F.D.and L Sacker, managed to keep the Granville and Gorsty Hill Collieries going, as did Noah Hingley at his Coombes Wood Colliery. On the other side of  Rowley Regis, the only one still working in 1922, was the Lion Colliery of F.D.Chandler, in Newbury Lane. Surprisingly, at the top of Spon Lane, West Bromwich, two little mines clung on for grim death, Spon Lane Colliery, and a little shaft in the Kingston works of Everitt and Company.  The only large mine in West Bromwich, Sandwell Park, would last for a few more years yet. Tipton, at one time pockmarked with old mine workings and collapsed building, also only had a single mine in operation in 1922, J.T.Jones fighting a losing battle near the canal at Dudley Port. Over in Wednesbury, which from the start had been at the heart of the rush for this Black Gold, there was only the single pit of the Coal Hall Colliery still operating. Poxton and Read would sink a bit more money into the Bilston Road pit, before finally giving up a few years later. Prior Fields Colliery, at Deepfields, would be the last one still working in the old boundry of Bilston.  A bit further north, and J and T.R.Powys were still working the last remains of the seams left at Park Field and Rough Hills, which would soon be covered in much needed housing. Coal was still available in Short Heath, and New Invention, but the workforce and production were tiny compared with past years. The main production of coal had shifted, and most was now coming from the Cannock Coal Fields, with the one exception being the Earl of Dudley's mighty Baggeridge Colliery, at Himley, although H S Pitt managed to earn a few crusts fron the Earls ealier efforts at Shutt End. There were a few clinging on around Dudley as well, Peartree Colliery, at Holly Hall, the old Castle Fields Colliery, run by William Ellwell, the old workings at the Buffery, including Tensley Hill Colliery, and Hingley's still had a small pit at Netherton. There were two mines still working in the Gornals, Cartwrights in Upper, and the Dock Colliery in Lower. Almost completing the circle, the next place with any working mines was the area between Shut End and Stourbridge, for this was the land of not just coal, but of the clay and Brickworks. These mines, in 1922, are the same as they were at the turn of the century, and I have covered them in a seperate topic.

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

August 3, 2013 at 4:20 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1409

There's always been a bit of confusion amongst those who don't know, that Cradley, should not be included with Cradley Heath. It's an ancient place is Cradley, Worcestershire, just a short journey from Halesowen, and an even shorter one from the other place. Never the less, they are as different as chalk is from cheese, as the inhabitants will quickly tell you. The place is full of old family names, Bloomer, Homer, Hill, Cox, Parsons, Priest, Westwood, Webster, Beasley, Attwood, and many more, who were long associated with the Iron trade, mainly you will be told, Chainmaking. One name I havn't mentioned so far, is Hodgetts, a long line of whom, stretch far back in the history of Cradley. One of the clan, Benjamin Hodgetts, was the proud father of nine children, all of his sons went into the same trade as himself. Luckily, Benjamin saved a few bob, and, as a sideline, began to sell meat from a small shop on the corner of High Street, and Intended Street. The Chainmaker became a partime Butcher. It was the eldest son, Joseph Hodgetts, who, after he married Fanny Haden, in 1901, took over control of the shop. This allowed his parents to take life a bit easier, for the shop did well, even employing a couple of young lads to help out. Born in 1873, Joseph was of course never short of help anyway, most of the family lived within a short walk of the shop, and their parents home in Intended Street. Maple Tree Lane, Colley Lane, High Town, High Street, Lyde Green, in fact there probably weren't many places where the family hadn't put down roots.


                                                                                                                                                                                           

The photograph above is an interesting shot of the shop, and the family. Joseph Hodgetts is the man with his arms folded and the satisfied look on his face, and no wonder given the ammount of meat he has hanging up. Standing behind him is his young wife Fanny Hodgetts, also looking a bit on the happy side for this picture ws taken a few months after her marriage, the year being 1902. Visable, over her right shoulder, are the unmistakable silver whiskers of Joseph's father, Benjamin Hodgetts. The young lad, front and centre, is Alfred Turner, smartly turned out for a 12 year old, and wearing one of those new fangled celluloid collars. He lived in Lyde Green. The other, and older lad, is Ethelred Webster, the first time I have come across that name, other than in the dark ages, in 30 years of research. The rather rotund gentleman on the right, next to Joseph, is Thomas Partridge, an Anchor Smith by trade, and a workmate of Josephs father. He lived in Intended Street as well, although he was born in Old Hill. Staffordshire. His was normally called " Barrs " Partridge when at work, to distinguish him from the other Partridge clan,  because of where he was born, Barrs Road, Haden Hill. Joseph Hodgetts had raised three children when war broke out in 1914, and he must have been an early volunteer, for he was listed as being in France on 14th July,1915, with the South Staffordshire Regiment. He was discharged into the reserves on 18th February,1919, by which tme he had gained the rank of Sergeant. He was later photographed, at his parents Golden Wedding celebrations wearing his ceremonial uniform, on 15th April,1922. His father died in 1926, after a lifetime hammering chains, and he himself passed on in 1949. The Butchers shop though,carried on for a number of years, outliving the chain trade by many years, perhaps someone will be kind enough to let me know.

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

July 9, 2013 at 2:20 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Penny Wright-Thompson
Member
Posts: 1

Research techniques are crucial to any and all writers, whether novice or well published, and this article outlines the importance of such techniques to uncover the most unlikely facts and figures inall of your materials developed towards future publication.  This is just one of my more unusual projects.

Historical research can arise in the most unusual circumstances.  A recent Christmas present was a magnificent book outlining all the research that had taken place in the 1920s around the discovery of the tomb of Pharaoh King Tut, and including a range of facsimile documents produced around that time.  Tutankamun is the one Pharaoh that we all know, although he was comparatively a much lesser ruler than some of  Egypt’s other pharaohs.

But his desire for immortality was achieved through the treasures discovered in his tomb, which had been untouched for nearly 3000 years.  At the present time there have been exhibitions of some of these treasures taking place around the museums in theUK, and Ancient Egypt remains a prominent period of world history in our minds.

Included amongst the documents within this book are two copies of pages taken from Howard Carter’s diaries written during November 1922 and February 1923.  The diaries themselves could indeed be the forerunners of the popular slimline pocket diaries that are so popular today,and had been printed by the long established diary publishers Letts.   Produced in a practical, no-nonsense format,the diaries bear the description “LettsNo. 46 Indian and Colonial Rough Diary” followed by the year date.  The original concept for the Letts Diary belonged to John Letts, who in 1816 published “Letts diary or Bills Owed book and Almanack”, which was the first commercially produced diary.  His son Thomas took over the family owned company in 1835, developing dozens of differently printed and bound annual publications, in numbered sequences.  It is recorded that the writer William Makepeace Thackeray ‘preferred a No. 12 diary’ and there is evidence that archaeologist Howard Carter preferred the No.46 diaries to record his excavations and findings at the tomb of King Tutduring 1922-1923.  The original Letts public limited company was formed in 1870, but was liquidated in 1885.  Thomas’ son Charles reformed the company privately as Charles Letts & Co; the company still trading today. HowardCarter’s diaries themselves carry only sparse entries, but in these two instances are the relevant dates to the opening and publicising of the tomb and its treasures.

 So where does Brierley Hill in England,come into all this?  The covers of the diaries display a range of advertising material, obviously the way companies in England advised ‘the Colonies’ of their services at that time.  Whilst the majority of these adverts related to companies based in London, the only one from outside of the capital is sited on the front cover of both year books, and is a company based at that time in Brierley Hill!

The advert outlines the services of Hill and Smith Ltd, Constructional Engineers, based in Brierley Hill, Staffordshire,England.  The company offered a rangeof construction services – steel framed buildings; bridges; structural steelwork; forgings; gates; railings and other types of castings.  The prominence of the advert on the front of these diaries caught my eye immediately, giving the impression, all these years later, that this must have been a prominent company in the engineering field at that time, presumably undertaking contracts within the various countries within the ‘Empire’ around the world.    

 

My immediate thought was to wonder whether this local company was ever aware that their advert, so strategically placed on the front of these diaries, was being carried around in the pocket of the man who at the time was responsible for discovering and bringing to world attention one of the many amazing examples of 5000 year old constructional engineering for which Egypt is renowned.  Curiosity then leads to the thought – just what could the ancient Egyptian engineers working on Tut’s tomb at the time of his burial, have done with the services of Hill and Smith Ltd, back then?  I wanted to know more about this local company whose advert had such prominence on the cover of these diaries.  Who were they? Are they still in existencet oday, after all there are companies that exist for many decades, even centuries, so is Hill and Smith Ltd around today?  An initial check of the regional telephone directories revealed no information showing current existence in the area, but then, companies expand, merge, change their names etc., so I moved to other sources for information.  The loca lweekly regional newspaper at that time would have been the County Express,which has archives dating from 1888, so perhaps Hill and Smith advertised their services through them?  The company was also a Limited company, so presumably would be registered within the archives of Companies House.  So the Internet was my next research tool.

Companies House has a register of all Limited Companieswithin the UK and has a webcheck site where you can find all the current companies listed in alphabetical order. This soon showed that Hill and Smith Ltd is not still in operation, at least not under that name.  However, you can email the enquiries office at Companies House, so this was my next step – a request for information from their archive section.  I briefly explained what I was looking for and why, and received an immediate response that my enquiry had been passed to the relevant department and I would receive further communication from them within a two day working period.  So at least a step closer to finding out who this company was.  A few days later, and a very helpfu lresearcher at Companies House, Miss Rhian Bennett forwarded details of thecompany registration.  Hill and Smith Ltd had the Company Number of 104531 and had been incorporated around 1909.  Unfortunately however, there are now no records available as the company was, to quote Companies House records,  “Dissolved & Destroyed” over 30 years ago.Even so, it appears that our intrepid company had survived into the 1970s. 

Sadly,as there are no records on file, I am no nearer to finding out the exact location of their premises, and of course, Brierley Hill has undergone such change and development in recent years, especially with the growth of the Merry Hill retail complex on its doorstep, that many of the then derelict buildings have been swept away, so is there much chance of finding the exact location of Hill and Smith Ltd at this point in the new century?  Perhaps it would have been close to the steelworks for which the area was once so well known at Round Oak? As a company well known for its steel fabrications, this could have been a logical location for them, close to the source of their raw materials.  But the construction of the Merry Hill complex swept away the old Round Oak works and potential other small company premises that were located nearby.

 Local  Ordnance Survey maps would be the next source of information maybe?  A map from 1888 shows Brierley Hill as part of Staffordshire, right on the edge of the county as it was in those days.  The map notes that the area is rich in mineshafts, collieries and iron works. Perhaps a little before the time of Hill and Smith Ltd, but nevertheless a map of the area as defined by their address 30 odd years later.  As the company appears to have come into existence around 1909 a later map would be of more use, but as there is no record of their actual address there will need to be more research in order to find a more clearly defined site.  Local history becomes a fascination, so perhaps further research findings on this company may come to light.  There may be some of you reading this, who may know where Hill and Smith Ltd, was based in Brierley Hill; you may have had relatives who worked for them; or perhaps may be relativesof the people who ran the company; there may be pictures and photos of the premises, or the work force, out there in family photo archives.  If the company only ceased operations around 30 odd years ago, there could well be lots of people who can fill in the gaps.  Between us, perhaps we can make further discoveries about the history and operational life of this company, and bring it back to life in the same way that Howard Carter resurrected Tutankamunafter his 3000 year slumbers.

 

 

June 14, 2013 at 3:59 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1409

Henry Pierrepoint, the father of the more famous Albert Pierrepoint,  was the first of the family to take on the unsual task of being No.1, on the Home Office List of approved executioners. When he stood down, due to ill health in 1921, ( he died in 1922 ) the post was taken up by his brother, Thomas Pierrepoint. Henry left behind a diary of sorts, setting down some of his thoughts and a few details of some " jobs " he had been involved with. Non of them actually liked executing women, but if the state degreed they should hang, the order was carried out. He was in charge at the first execution at Holloway Prison, ( and the only double one ) in 1903, when the two " Baby Farmers " I mentioned, met their fate. One of the women was so distraught, that he had to hold her upright on the drop, as she kept fainting. He saved his sympathy though, for the female prison officers, non of whom had ever expected to witness such an event, and who left the scene in a calm manner. Some of this must have gone through his mind in 1907, when he, and his brother were called to Cardiff, to hang Rhoda Willis. ( see Staffordshire's Hanged Women )  Where as the previous two had murdered far more than the 2 deaths they had been hanged for, ( total monetary gain £55 ) and had turned it into a business, Rhoda Willis had committed the act in desparation. The name on the documents Henry received was Leslie James, she only revealed her real name two days before the execution, and that was because she made a request to see her lover the day before her death. On the day, according to Henry, the sun was shining as he made his way to her cell, his brother at his side. She was at prayer with the Chaplain, when she looked up at him, and he spoke only two words to her. " Be Brave ". The execution shed was a short walk across the prison yard, and as they stepped outside Henry wrote of the event, " The sun shone brilliantly on her auburn hair, just for a moment, a prettier sight no one could wish to see ". Despite a petition, and over 150 letters asking for clemancy, no reprieve was forthcoming, and her history of the head injury were discarded. Even some members of the jury were expecting the verdict to be reduced to Manslaughter. The release of some prisoners was bought forward to 7.00am, which otherwise would have coincided with the event. On that bright sunny morning of 14th August, 1907, her birthday, the attractive 44 year old was " hanged by the neck until dead ". What these deaths bring into stark contrast, is the glaring inconsistencies in the sentencing of the women involved, which goes back over a 100 years, and is still an issue today.

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

December 25, 2012 at 2:40 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1409

Birmingham Hangings, Winson Green, List of names Hanged.



Rather than deal with all the individual requests, ( thank you for asking.) for just who was hanged at Winson Green, I have compiled, in chronological order, the names, dates, and the poor victims.


      Name.                       Hanged.               Victim.

Henry Kimberley        17/3/1885    Emily ( Emma) Palmer.

Frederick Davies, 40. 26/8/1890   Shot and killed his wife.

Frederick Fenson, 32  4/4/1894   Florence N Elborough, 24

Frank Taylor, 23.        18/8/1896      May Lewis, 10.

John Joyce, 36,        28/8/1901     John Nugent, 61.

Charles Sam Dyer, 25.  5/4/1904    Martha Eliza Simpson, 21.

Samuel Holden, 43.    16/8/1904    Susan Humphries, 35.

Frank Greening, 34.   13/8/1913  Elizabeth Ellen Hearne, 27.

William Butler, 39.   16/8/1916   Florence Beatrice Butler, 29.

Louis Van Der Kerkhove. 9/4/1918. Clemence Vereslt.

Henry Gaskin, 22.    8/8/1919    Elizabeth Gaskin, 23.

Samuel Westwood, 26  30/12/1920  Lydia Westwood, 24.

Edward O'Connor, 43.  22/12/1921  Thomas O'Connor, 5.

Elijah Pountney, 48.   11/8/1922   Alice Gertrude Pountney, 47

William Rider, 40.    19/12/1922   Rosilla Patience Barton. 4.

John Fisher, 58.      5/1/1926       Ada Taylor, 46.

George Sharples, 20.  13/4/1926  Milly Crabtree, 25.

James Power, 32.  31/1/1928   Olive Gordon Turner, 18.

Victor Betts, 21.   3/1/1931   William Thomas Andrews. 82.

Jeremiah Handley, 49.  2/2/1933.  Jessie Payne, 39.

Stanley Hobday, 21.   29/12/1933.  Charles William Fox. 24.

Dorothea Waddingham, 36. 16/4/1936. Louisa and Ada Baguley.

Peter Barnes, 32.    7/2/1940.   Coventry Bombing.

James Richards, 29.  7/2/1940            "                "

Eli Richards, 45.   19/9/1941    Jane Turner, 45.

Arthur Peach, 23.   30/1/1942   Kitty Lyon, 18. ( see: More Ghastly Murders )

Harold Merry, 40.    10/9/1942   Joyce Dixon, 27.

William Quayle, 52.   3/8/1943    Vera Clarke, 8.

James Ferrell, 19.   29/3/1949   Joan Marney, 14.

Piotr Maksimdnski, 33.  29/3/1950  Dilys Campbell. 30.

William Watkins, 49.   3/4/1951  Killed his newborn son.

Horace Carter, 31.   1/1/1952     Shelia Attwood, 11.

Leslie Green, 29.    23/12/1952   Alice Wiltshire, 75.

Frederick Cross,33.  26/7/1955    Donald Lainton, 28.

Corbett Roberts, 46.  2/8/1955     Doris Roberts, 43.

Ernest Harding, 42.    9/8/1955     Evelyn Higgins, 10.

Dennis Howard, 24.   4/12/1957   David Keasey, 21.

Matthew Kavangh, 32.  12/8/1958   Isaiah Dixon, 60.

Oswald Agustus Grey, 20.   20/11/1962. Thomas Bates. 47.


There are, as you can see, a few details missing from some. If you can help fill in the blanks, I would be very grateful. For other Birmingham citzens, unfortunately Hanged by the Neck, pre 1908, please see the Warwick Hanging list.

 

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

August 12, 2012 at 10:50 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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Birmingham Hangings, Winson Green.


Now I did say, that some of the hangings concerned a few from the Blackcountry, so here are a selection. In 1896. In Brearly Street, Lozells, lived a young girl, May Lewis, on March 10th, 1896, she was violated and brutally murdered, she was just turned 10 years old. Her murderer, 23 year old Frank Taylor, was a young Draper, born in Sutton Coldfield, in 1873. He was hanged at Winson Green Prison on 18th August,1896. The next execution that was sent down from Stafford Assizies was of one Henry Gaskin, his date of despatch being 8th August 1919. He had been born, Thomas Henry Gaskin, in Lichfield, Staffordshire, 1891, and was aged 28 when hanged and not 22 as listed on some sites. He had married Elizabeth Talbot, in Cannock, in March,1913, when she was just turned 17, and several months pregnant. The child died before the year was out. He wasn't happy about what she had been up to while he was way in the Army, and reportedly strangled her. The next year,1920, after a short marriage, in September 1920, Samuel Westwood,26, killed his wife, the former Lydia Vaughan, by stabbing her in the neck, outside the Prince of Wales public house, in Walsall Street, Willenhall.  He was hanged on Thursday 30th December,1920. Edward O'Connor, a Railway Clerk, for reasons not clear, in 1921, killed his youngest child, Thomas. Normally, any sign of insanity would have meant life imprisonment, but in this case, no mercy was granted, and he was hanged on 22nd December,1921. The next in this selection is that of Elijah Pountney, who, in 1922, cut his wifes throat in what was, a fit of insane jealousy. Whether or not Alice Gertrude Pountney was indeed playing the field, ( Covered in the " More Nasty Murders " topic ) the Home Secretary refused to change the sentence, and he was hanged on 11th August, 1922. The last one of the selection, like most of the executions, was another sordid case of sex. Jeremiah Hanbury was a 49 year old Widower, who had been having " relations " with a married 39 year old woman, Jessie Payne. On the afternoon of 17th October,1932, he left his cottage at 18, New Town, Brockmoor, near Brierley Hill, walked the short distance to Leys Crescent, hit Mrs Payne with a hammer, then slit her throat. After attempting to do the same to himself, and failing, he gave himself up. Not mentioned at the trial, which began on 8th December,1932, was that Jessie Payne had long been suspected of procuring abortions, including one which had been the result of her " relations " with Hanbury. He had clearly planned it all, and was found guilty, an appeal being dismissed on 16th January,1933. He was hanged, on 2nd February,1933, in the confines of Winson Green. ( More detailed accounts of some of these murders, can be found in the book, Black Country Murders, by Ian M. Bott. )

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

August 4, 2012 at 3:12 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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Himley, Wombourne, John Stratford, Staffordshire Yeomanry.


My thanks to the contributor of the following story, which, with corrections, will I hope, make interesting reading. Once again, we are dealing with a man who was not born in the region, had a rather exciting early life, but lived here for over 60 years. John Stratford, was christened at Saint George in the East, Middlesex, on 23rd July, 1829. He was born in the mean and dirty streets of Stepney, just off the Mile End Road, and within the sound of the old Bow Bells. A proper " Cockney ". How he ended up in a Lancashire Regiment, the 14th ( Kings own ) Hussars, I have no idea, but thats what he did, in 1846. Perhaps it was because they were stationed in exotic India at the time, and the Uniform was impressive.



Having joined the Regiment in India, he was soon in action, as the Second Sikh War broke out. He certainly took part in the famous ( but rather stupid ) charge at the Battle of Rumnuggar, in 1848, when his Commanding Officer, disobeying orders, led the 14th in a charge into the river. 14 men were killed, including the C.O, and 85 wounded, As for the story of him being the only survivor, well thats just an old soldiers tale. He took part in two further battles, Chillianwallah, 1849, and Gujerat, also 1849, for which he got two clasps to his campaign medal. The unit was sent to the Persian Gulf in 1856, and so missed the all the fun in the Crimea. Back to India again in 1857, to take part in the Sepoys Revolt, ( otherwise known as The Indian Mutiny ) in Bengal, central India. The 14th were deployed back to the United Kingdom in 1860, being quartered this time in Perthshire, Scotland. It was here, on the 17th February,1869, that he married Margaret Constable Burry, and the 14th were then sent to Dublin, Ireland,  where John Stratford ended his active service career. Back home, he was offered the role of  Sargeant Major of Instruction, at the Ist Himley Troop, of the Staffordshire Yeomanry, and took up the post in 1870. He lived at Battle Cottages, Wombourne, until the late 1880s, when they moved to 372, Newhampton Road, Wolverhampton. Sorry to disappoint again, but theres no record of him being a Tax Collector, why indeed would there be, as a Chelsea Pensioner, he didn't need to work. The couple never had any children, so when he died, in 1932, at the grand old age of 102, he left his estate, ( £717.8s.9d ) to the Reverend Thomas Smith Cave. The funeral was huge, attended by members of his old regiment, now called the 14/20th Hussars,( 1922 )  and the streets were lined with hundreds of his many admirers. A grand funeral, for a grand old man.

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

July 26, 2012 at 12:07 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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West Bromwich, Willie Holt, Billiards.


Some time before the advent of " Steam Radio "(1922, and with the grand title of  2LO ) and the pleasures of " Listen with Mother, Toytown, Workers Playtime, Archie Andrews, and a whole lot of others, including my mothers favourite, " Mrs Dales Diary ", folkes had to find other pastimes. William ( Willie ) Holt, was a West Bromwich, born old time player of the game of Billiards. It was very popular around the country, mainly I suspect, for the rather more seedy side of the game, Gambling. Saint Michaels Street, West Bromwich, at the end of Moor Lane, and now forming part of the Towns race track, was an ideal place to open a venue, it being just off the old High Street. It opened for business on Wednesday 13th August,1913, and was, it appears, an instant hit. In the first 3 days up to the 16th, there were no less than 30,000 visitors to Willies new establishment. Now if your grandfather, ever mentioned his days of a mis-spent youth, this maybe the place he spent them. I believe the place is still standing.

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

April 26, 2012 at 10:54 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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Dudley Port, 1922. Ammunition Explosion


This next disaster, at Dudley Port, in 1922, is always difficult to get your head round, something that shouldn't have happened, yet it did. I went back to the very start of it all, by taking a look at who was responsible, and, with added information from website member Pedro, we present this updated version of the worst peacetime event, in modern Black Country history. 


John Walter Knowles, was born at Gospel Oak, Tipton, Staffordshire in 1867. His birth was registered in Dudley, the nearest office, by his father, George. He was the second of 7 children. In the late 1870s, the family moved from this rather rural setting, and were next to be found at 43, Horseley Heath, Tipton, where Johns parents ran a Linen Drapery Business. The young John was set up in the quarrying business, dealing in broken stone, presumably for road making. During one of his visits to a quarry near Groveland Road, Tividale, he met the daughter of former Coal Master, Daniel Whale, who resided in a nice little cottage at the rear of The Wagon and Horses, on the Dudley Road. As well as mining, he also owned a small Iron works in Groveland Road. Louisa Kate Whale, like John, was the second born into the family, in 1873, which consisted of 7 other children. Again, like John, she was well educated, and they seemed to be well suited, which later events were to prove correct, and they married, in some style, in March,1893. Her father, never short of a few bob, installed the happy couple in " Grange House ", an 8 roomed comfortable place on the Dudley Road at Brades, Oldbury, not far from the old Tividale Hall. Dispite what was later claimed, right up until 1911, when Louisa's father died, and she inherited the Ironworks, Knowles always listed himself as a Metal and Leather Merchant, attested to by a bit of annimal cruelty in August 1905, when he was fined £3, with costs. He had taken a very sick horse, hauling a large load of Leather, all the way to Messers Dewsbury's, Warewell Street, Walsall, where the condition of the animal was noted by Police Constable  Ball. A vet ordered the poor suffering horse to be put down. The Ironworks, and by now also into Brass casting, was in decline, and the couple found the going tough. In 1915, Knowles was involved in two cases of fraud. George Wood and Sons, Brickmakers, Oldbury, went bust, and for a fee, Knowles went through a  process of claiming to be the owner of a motor car, which the Wood family were determind to keep out of the hands of their main creditor. It failed. In December, Knowles was forced to sue a Company, who stopped payment of a cheque when they found the goods he had supplied did not come up to the accepted industry standard.  He lost that one as well. The Groveland Works struggled through the Great War, and on the 17th February, 1918, it became clear how they had managed it. Messers Mckechnie Bros, Smethwick, producers of Brass, had noted that their stock, in some large quantities, seemed to have gone missing. They informed the Police, who kept watch on the premises. Samuel Jones, and Alfred Sargent, driving the Groveland Works lorry, and acting on the instructions of the " Boss ", pulled up outside the Smethwick Works, and took from one William Beetleston, several heavy sacks. The Police pounced, and all three were arrested, as later on was John Walter Knowles, and charged with receiving stolen goods. ( almost 3 cwt of Brass )  All good things come to and end, and twist and turn as he did, he failed to convince anyone he was innocent, and was sent to prison to complete a sentence of 18 months hard labour. Beetleston got 9 months, and the two employee's were acquitted. The situation, after he came out of prison in October 1920, was again looking pretty grim for the couple, and the business. They then had a stroke of luck, John Walter Knowles heard of a way to make some extra money, The Premier Aluminium Casting Company had been fortunate, they had been offered, and purchased, a large quantity of no longer needed ammunition. Between 45 and 47 million rounds of .22 ammunition to be exact, packed 1,000 rounds to a box. and then proceeded, with the Explosive Licence required, the task of breaking it up.



The scrap value of Brass and Lead had increased, so Knowles asked one of the Directors, Harry Andrews, if he could get hold of some of the ammunition for him. They delivered to him, at his Groveland Road Works, a consignment of  160 tons, for which Knowles paid them £500 as commision on the deal, and also, it was alleged, agreed to give them half of the profits of the scrap sales. He may have agreed the sums far to quickly, for he proceeded to cut a great many corners, in the pursuit of as much profit, as he could wring out of this blatent exploitation of young girls.


Premier Aluminium, obeying current safety rules, had their girls take the cartridges apart underwater, in small tanks fitted to the workbenches. There were no naked flames near the workshops, and a no-smoking rule was strictly enforced. The girls all wore protective clothing, rubber shoes, and the floor of the workshops were all wood. They worked in small groups, seperated by some distance, to minimize the danger should an accident occur. There were extractor fans, and the floor was swept daily, to prevent any possible build up of the propellent powder. It was fairly light work for the girls, who could earn between £3 and £4 a week, depending on their level of dexterity. All this was shown to Knowles prior to to the delivery, by Mr Dawkins, another director of Premier Aluminium, and he was also advised again, that he needed the appropiate explosive licence. Assured that he had one, the deal and the delivery went ahead.  What went on at the Groveland works however, was a far cry from all this, as both Mr and Mrs Knowles sought ways in which to make as much money as possible. The place selected for the operation, was the old casting pattern shop, it was 30 feet long, 27 feet wide, had a concrete floor, a stove in the middle used for heating iron bars, and no proper ventilation or extractor fans.



The girls they employed, ranging from 13 to 16 years old, were given no safety training, issued with no protective gear, and all wore the usual hob nailed boots, common for the period. They were paid between 2 shillings and 4 pence and 3 shillings and 4 pence a week, which was a very long way from that earned at Premier in Birmingham. The foundry foreman, Ebor Chadwick, was given the task of overseeing the operation, dispite having no experience with explosives, and once again, not even the rudiments of any safety training. He did though, warn Knowles of the danger of the stove in the workshop, a warning that Knowles brushed aside with the comment, " don't be silly ".The extracted propellent powder was collected in open boxes, a quantity of which found it's way onto the concrete floor, which was swept, according to knowles, every week. It wasn't,.as events would prove, and was then simply dumped in the nearby Birmingham Canal. The workforce assembled for the operation numbered 30, ( 28 on the day of the explosion ) and they all worked closely together, clustered around the stove, in the tiny workshop. It was of course, an accident just waiting to happen, and when it did, it was truly horrendous. The day would be ingrained in many minds for the rest of their lives, horrific images, far worse than some had seen on the battlefields of the Great war.


It was a cold morning on the 6th March,1922, one can picture the girls, happily chatting away to each other, seated on the ammunition boxes around little workshop. The little stove, probably fed with broken up ammo boxes, supplying at least a little comfort in the cramped and dingy little building. At approximately 11.45 am, the whole of Dudley Port resounded to what some at first thought was a clap of thunder.  The resultant thick black cloud and pugent fumes however, heralded what was in fact, a clap of doom, as the workshop blew up, throwing debris over a large area, and virtually demolishing the Groveland Factory.



There was a very short period of silence, then as rescurers rushed to the scene, the air was filled with the pitiful wailing of the injured girls. 13 were already dead before help arrived, killed instantly in the blast and the skin melting temperature of the fireball. Those still alive, naked and horrible burnt, were, as gently as possible, removed from the ruins, and conveyed to the nearby Guest Hospital, Dudley.



The Doctors worked long and hard throughout the day, but 3 more died before the day was done from the terrible burns they had received.  Of the 23 girls at work, 16 perished following the explosion that day, and despite some truly inspiring efforts 3 others would quietly slip away to their maker. in the following weeks. That four young girls survived at all is somewhat of a miracle, and testiment to the fairly new improved treatment known as Skin Grafting. One volunteer, had walked all the way from Sheffield, to offer some of his own flesh to save a life. There were many others, as the tragedy hit the headlines, ensuring that this perticular event would attract an Inquiry,  a few questions in the House of Commons, and a trial. There would be no hiding place this time for the negligence, no hiding place for the truth, this time, at least the victims would get some justice.


As expected, there very quickly followed the setting up of a Government Inquiry, only for it to be set aside while the trial of the arrested men was in progress at Stafford Assizes. John Knowles engaged the services of Sir Henry Curtis Bennett, and from the start, as he had done for most of his life, began the game of blaming others. Both men pleaded not guilty. One of the first witnesses was the furnaceman at Groveland, Chatwin. His evidence established that Knowles was at the factory every day, and was well aware of the conditions, and the way the cartridges were being dismantled. Bennett, tried to pin the blame for the way the process was carried out on poor Chatwin, who, not suprisingly denied it, he was after all only a humble furnaceman. Ebor Chadwick, claimed by knowles to have been in charge of the girls and the workshop, only ever went in there to collect patterns for the casting and moulding shop. He had though, managed to warn Knowles of the danger of the stove, although he did state, that he had no idea that Gunpowder could explode.



The two Directors of Premier Aluminium, who should really have taken more care about whom they trusted with dismantling the ammunition, could not be blamed for the total disregard shown for any safety standards by Knowles. He had seen the operation at their works, he knew he needed an explosive licence, and he knew he had to provide at least the bare minimum in protective clothing. His statement to the Court, given his past record as " an honest man ", is as tall a tale as you are ever likely to hear. He had , he told the Court, telephoned about a Licence, and had been told he didn't need one. He had he said, left all the details of the work to Chadwick, and had never, entered the workshop where the girls were. He said, he was a simple Metal Merchant and Brass Caster, a business he had been in for 30 years, and that he had never seen any of the precautions described, when he visted the Premier Aluminium Works. He would he said, now suffer some heavy financial loss'es, as the majority of the ammunition had been confiscated, and his buildings were not insured. There was no mention in this statement of 19 deaths, nor the terrible disablement and maiming of the survivors. The Judge, in his comments during his summing up. said that it was the worst case of Manslaughter, he had ever come across. He found it difficult to believe, that Knowles, a man with intelligence, could claim he knew nothing whatever about the explosive act, after being given advice, and some guidence, from Premier Aluminium Castings Ltd. Like many others he said, Knowles had chosen, in the pursuit of avericious greed, to exploit, and put in extreme danger, very young girls, desperate for work. It did not take the Jury long, to bring in a verdict of Guilty as charged against John Walter Knowles, and dismiss the charges against Ebor Chadwick, who had only done what he was ordered to do. Knowles was then sentenced to 5 years Penal Servitude, and there were many who thought the sentence far too short. Leave to appeal was refused, although later this was granted. and Knowles, asking for the sentence and conviction to be quashed, lost this one as well. Louisa, cutting her loss'es, sold what remained of the Groveland factory, to Thomas Dudley, who, two years later, would possibly come to believe the site was cursed.


And the victims, what about them, and the survivors of this tragic piece of Black Country history. There were in total, six survivors of the blast and fire according to some records, and the compensation awarded suggests that there were more than just the four. A Judge awarded these figures in early 1923.  Mrs Bryant, seriuosly, injured and her daughter killed, £1,230. 3 girls very serously injured, £900 each. Another girl, badly injured, £200. An injured child, £105, and to the dependents of the 19 dead girls, £75 each. A total of £5,660. Louis Knowles as the factory owner, paid into Court, a reported sum of £5,650, and did nothing but moan about the cost. There was a public appeal for the survivors, which raised £4,766, and the money was distributed by the trustees in the following manner. 3 girls, all now disfigured and disabled, were sent for training, at a special college, as commercial clerks. They received 12 shillings a week, and a £6 Dress allowance. The invested funds would then provide the disabled girls, 5 in total, with a lifetime income of 17 shillings a week, or a lump sum on reaching 21. of £133. Not much by todays standards, and at the end of this article, you may think it should have been a lot more.




Louisa Kate Knowles, most have forgotten, was also acquitted of the charge,but was ordered, as the Factory owner, to pay compensation of £10,000 to the families of the dead and injured. Only £5,650 of this was recorded as being received, exactly what the Judge had set when awarding damages Speaking some time later, Louisa Knowles said that the payment of £10,000 had ruined her business, and her life.  How, you should ask yourselves, for that sum was never paid, nor did they disclose to the Court then, or later, all their assets. There was no mention of the money left to her by her father when he died, nor was the sum received for the sale of the factory, nor the sum for sale of number 191, Dudley Road Brades Oldbury ( The Grange ) If they had no money, how come they managed to purchase, 61 Hagley Road West, Quinton, Birmingham, a rather grander house than the Grange, after John Walter Knowles was released from prison. They lived there from before 1930, until sometime after 1945, when they purchased 94, Lordswood Road, Harborne, Birmingham, and where he died on 28 the March,1951, leaving, in his will, £50,469.9s10d. Louisa died at the same address in 1955, leaving an estate valued at £93,000. Some folks would, if they were minded, call that Blood Money.

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

April 11, 2012 at 4:45 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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Nagersfield Fireclay Colliery. c1904.

As already stated, Coal was not the only reason for digging a deep hole in the ground, Fireclay was also a precious commodity. The main Clay deposits are to found around the Stourbridge area, from Lye, Brockmore, Amblecote, Wordsley, Bromley, and Kingswinford. The deposits were overlain with both Coal and Ironstone, which called for different approaches to each, but the end result was always the same. Dig it out and send it to the surface. The larger Brickworks, or Refactories as they liked to be called, required immense quantities of Clay, and they bought up many acres of land, to start their own mines. Several mines of note around Lye. J.B. Fisher & Company owned the Hayes (Fireclay) Colliery from the 1860s until it was sold to Mobberley & Perry, in 1890, anjd still going strong in 1922. There were several deaths at this mine. In 1867, Joseph, or James Chance, was killed by a fall of roof coal while extracting the clay from beneath. In 1882, while expanding the mine, two men Thomas Hipkiss,24, and Edward Hart,40, were buried alive digging a new shaft, as the clay they removed failed to hold up the coal above. It took two days to dig them out. The new owners had problems as well, as in 1892, Noah Cartwright,47, was struck a severe blow on the head from a large chunk of clay, which fractuered his skull. He died before he got to the surface. The other mine, Lye Fireclay Colliery, owned by Hickman & Company, had a loader, Benjamin Aston,19, killed in 1889, suffocated under a heavy fall of clay after he apparently ran the tub into a pit prop. Three years later, and his relative, the mines Charter Master, George Aston,38, was also suffocated by a fall of clay, while carrying out an inspection. This mine was later sold to George Harrison and King, and was still producing coal in 1934. Over in Amblecote, messers J.Hall & Company, had their safety record broken in 1874, by young David Skeldon,18. Working as a loader, he was running a bit late to meet his lady friend, so he decided to get a quick ride up in a loaded skip. He fell out, and made a date with the undertaker instead. Also in the area, Hill & Allchurch, owners of Amblecote Colliery in 1865, lost their Manager and part owner, Joseph Allchurch, when the skip, on it's way down, slipped off the rope, and plunged to bottom of the shaft. Also killed in this accident was the pit's Deputy, James Griffiths. Production for a time came to a dead stop. Just down the road, at the Stourbridge Fire Clay Company, owned by F.T. Rufford,  four years later, Joseph Brooks, the mines Charter Master, for no known reason, simple walked into the pit shaft, and was found in the deep sump. The main danger though, was the habit of roofs falling down, nearly always composed of coal, they tended to be very heavy when they fell. The Himley Firebrick Company could have testified to this, as in their Stourbridge Extention Colliery, in 1877, they lost Alfred Guest,27, and again in 1889, Henry Blakewell.15, to roof falls. The former was actually repairing the timber at the time, and the latter minding his own business, leading his horse. It was a tough old life digging out clay.

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

March 31, 2012 at 4:42 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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Chainmaking, Stoke, Ford Green, Burslem, Lye, Quarry Bank.


In response, to several people who have asked, just where in Stoke-on-Trent, did these chainmakers and their families settle. The Ford Green Iron Works, was founded in the 19th century, in a place called Smallthorne. This was an area just to the east of the more well known Burslem, and was well served by the canals, and contained at least 5 coal mines. Smallthorne, I believe, up until 1922, was fairly independent from both Burslem, and Stoke itself. Ford Green Iron Works, did mainly forge work, and the need for skilled workman in the early days, resulted in a few recruitment drives. The main products being Chain, Cable, and Anchors, led to them taking on men from the Black Country Chain Trade. Many families, from Cradley, Cradley Heath, Quarry Bank, and Lye, made the transistion, and settled in Smallthorne, Norton, and nearby Burslem. To make them feel at home, there was a strong community based on Primitive Methodism, something that most of them would be very familiar with. There will be many names, still in the area, that will be found in the Black Country Towns they left behind. I have uploaded a photograph into the Gallery, complete with some names, it dates from about 1914, just before the War broke out, and was taken in Burslem.

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

November 10, 2011 at 2:45 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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Bilston Murder,1922. Elijah Pountney, Coseley, Winson Green, John Ellis.


Following a request for information on a murder in Bilston, here it is, in all it's gory details.


Elijah Pountney was fairly typical of most Black Country men, no specific skills, but worked hard at whatever work he found. Born in Coseley, Staffordshire, 1874, he was married by the time he was 18. His young bride, Alice Gertrude Reynolds, a year younger, was to put it bluntly, somewhat up the duff. To be fair, she had a dificult childhood, her father, Edward Reynolds, died two years after her birth, in a accident at work where he was a Furnaceman. Her mother, the former Hannah Armson, was crippled, and was left to bring up 4 children on her own. The happy couple did not have a very auspicious start to married life, as the baby, Elijah Henry Pountney,  died soon after birth, and to be honest, the marriage failed to improve as time went by. The next year, 1893, Alice gave birth to Joseph Pountney, and in 1895, to Phoebe Pountney. Unfortunately, their bad luck continued, and both Joseph and Phoebe died that same year, which to be honest, must have been soul destroying. In 1900, they started again, with Alice gaving birth to Eric Armson Pountney, but he died in 1901. John Edward Pountney, born in 1902, survived, but another son, Herbert Armson Pountney, born in 1905, died the next year.  Poor Alice must have been totally devastated, and the deaths, of five children it seems, left it's mark. Elijah, from the beginning, was a jealous man, a fact not missed by Alice, who, smarting from having already lost so much, was known to " wind up " her husband on many occasions although at the time, there was no hint about other men. ( Mind you, they do say, that it's a wise man who knows his own father. ) He had worked for sometime in Bradley, as a blacksmith in the Iron works, but decided on a change of direction, with an eye to putting a bit by for their old age. He took on the licence of " The Pheasant Inn ", in Broad Street, Bilston, some distance from his home in Batemans Hill, Coseley. ( Times were hard following the end of the Great War ) From the start, the takings were not good, and Elijah very quickly found he would need to take a job, leaving Alice to run the pub, with help from their only remaining son, John, who lived with them. Even this was not enough, and in 1921, it was decided to take in lodgers as well. Now Elijah was just about 5 foot 5 inches, and skinny with it, so when a new lodger arrived, Edmond McCann, a big strapping bricklayer with an eye for the women, he sensed brewing trouble. Whether there was any truth in it or not, he began to suspect that something was going on behind his back. He then began to drink rather more than he should have, possibly believing, that this would make him forget his percieved troubles. It didn't, it just made it worse. After several rows with Alice, during which McCann supported her, Elijah turned up at the Police station, clearly the worse for drink, asking for help in throwing the Bricklayer out. His problem, he explained, was that the lodger was to big for him. The Police refused to get involved with a domestic argument. Things could only get worse, and the next year they did. Easter Sunday that year, was on the 16th April, and as usual, after a heavy Saturday night of drinking with his friends, Elijah staggered downstairs to get some breakfast. McCann and Alice were in the bar, eating Oysters and swilling them down with Ale. Alice now made a fatal mistake, she refused to get Elijah his breakfast, and this was the trigger that turned the worm, so to speak, as they rowed all morning. Now although Bilston was a rough old town, the inhabitants were still regular Church goers, so when the pub opened at lunchtime, there were very few customers. Towards closing time at 2pm, Alice went into the kitchen to prepare their mid-day meal, and was seen to be peeling the spuds, McCann seems to have left the scene.  Elijah then seen to enter the kitchen, turn around, and say, in a loud voice, " Kiss her lads, it may be the last time ", then he pulled back his wifes head, and slowly and deliberately, draw a sharp knife across her neck. The blade sliced through her windpipe, blood spurted over the kitchen, and then poor Alice fell to the floor. She was dead before she hit the lino. With a look of sheer horror on his face, Elijah fled the Pub. The Police and a Doctor were soon on the scene, but there was nothing they could for the unfortunate woman. A murder hunt was started at once, after all, they knew who they were looking for.


Leonard Hamblett, his brother Jess, and William Doughty, three young lads, were playing down by the canal. Trying to move the boats, as kids used to do, they spotted a body wedged between them. Dragging it out, they found the body was still breathing, and summoned help. Doctor Charles Waddell soon had Elijah Pountney back on his feet, then bundled into a passing car, and down to Bilston Police Station, where he was put into a nice comfortable cell. Later on he was found to be suffering from shock, poor devil, it must have been the thought of what was going to happen to him. After spending several days in Hospital, it was time for the Inquest, which surprise, surprise, found him responsible for Wilful Murder. So off he went, to Winson Green Prison, to await trial at the next Stafford Assizes.


Today of course, the plea of Insanity carries more weight than it did then, and the outcome would be a Manslaughter verdict. The Judge and Jury in Elijahs case though, just wouldn't believe it. and he was sentenced to Death. Perhaps the lovely July weather had something to do with it, the Jury wishing to get off home and enjoy a bit of Sun Bathing. His Lawyers did appeal, backed up by a petition, and several letters of support, some of them detailing how badly Alice had treated poor old Elijah. As you can't Libel the dead, these letter writers could say what they liked, and some of them did just that, as Alice Pountney was not there to contest them.  Dismissed by the apeal Court Judge, the petition failed, and so, at 8.0am, on 11th August, 1922, at Winson Green, Elijah Pountney paid the full price for his wicked act. The only one's who may have been pleased, were John Ellis, and his assistant, Robert Baxter, the hangmen, it being a Friday, they had the whole sunny weekend to look forward to.

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

October 8, 2011 at 4:37 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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Oldbury, Jack Judge, Williams, Public House, Tipperary, Balsall Common.


Off to Oldbury this time, 2 years before the start of the Great War, January 1912. Two men, both artists, one, a comedian with a way with words, the other a pianist and composer. The common denominator, they were both born in Oldbury, and lived in Low Town, just off Birmingham Street. Their names, Henry James Williams, better known as Harry, and Jack Judge, jointly credited with producing the famous song, " It's a long way to Tipperary ". It's become accepted though, that the words were written by Jack Judge. Harry Williams, who since birth had been crippled, who wrote the music, lived with his parents at The Malt Shovel, and played the piano for the customers. Jack Judge lived a stones throw from the pub, and the two were great friends. There's a story, that while on tour, Jack Judge, for a bet, of 5 shillings, wrote the words to the song in just 5 minutes. The likelihood however, is that it had been written some time before, and was already in the pairs act, and they had won a few bets of a similar nature before. The story however, did make the song more well known, and the copyright was bought by Messers Feldmans, who published it extensively. Harry appears to have been a bit brighter than Jack, for Harry got the lions share of the royalities. After the War, Harry's parents moved to a new pub, " The Plough ", at Mere End, Balsall Common. A fairly quiet little Warwickshire place, and possibly in order to drum up a bit more trade, the pub was renamed. There was only one name they could possibly use, they called it " The Tipperary Inn ". It wasn't to be a long stay, well at least not in the pub. His mother, Mary Ann Williams, sadly died in 1922, aged 69. Harry himself passed away in 1924. His father, Henry Sketchley Williams, followed him three years later in 1927. A visit to the pub today,where they are well remembered with lots of memorabilia, will also get you directions to their final resting place, not far away, in the Churchyard at Temple Balsall. The old tombstone is a bit faded in places, and if, at first you have a bit of trouble locating the site, you can always hum a little tune to yourself, It's a long way, to Tipperary, might be appropiate. There is Photo of both Jack and Harry, and of course the Pub, in the " Images from the Forums " , in the Photo Gallery.


Added to this post, 20th February, 2014.


Now it's been almost two and a half years since I posted the above, and I am sad to say, at the time, I got a few letters telling me I was wrong. We all like to believe that a story that has been around for while, tends to be true, and it's hard, at times, when we find out all is not as it seems. The people of Oldbury, having cast aside long ago, the real facts, praised a native of the Town, Jack Judge, with the sole credit for writing and composing the Song. I am glad to report, that the piece I wrote back then, was far nearer the truth than some were prepared to admit. It's a long way, from Oldbury to Craven Arms in Shropshire as well, but there dwells Harry Williams grand niece, Meg Pybus, complete with the real history of the famous marching song of the first World War. Henry Sketchley Williams, Harry's father, moved from Oldbury to Balsall Common, Warwickshire around 1900, and took over as Licencee of the Plough Inn. The two men had known each other for years, and performed their co-written work around the entertainment venues of many provincial towns. Needles to say, they didn't make a fortune. "It's a long way to Connemarra ", the original title of the song, was probably penned at the Plough in 1909, and with a swift change of title, performed on stage for a bet , at  Stalybridge's Grand Theatre. A London publisher, Albert Feldman, had the words and sheet music published in 1912, and although popular, it was another two years, before George Curnock, a jounalist, heard it being sung by the 2nd Battalion, Connaught Rangers, as they marched ashore at Boulogne on 13th August,1914, to re-inforce the British Expeditionary Force. He was on holiday, and when war broke out five days later, he reported what he had heard. The song quickly spread around the Army units, and pretty soon, around the Empire. It was estimated, that the pairs royalties from the song hit over £165,000 in 1915 alone. Harry Williams, purchased, outright, the Plough Inn, and the name changed to what it still is today, " The Tipperary Inn " Meanwhile, back in Oldbury, Jack Judge was experiencing a few difficulties paying the bills, and, on a visit made by Harry, sold his share of the royalties. The song, to which the family still own the rights, is 112 years old this year, which no doubt, will earn a lot more money this year, sustained, through music, the spirits of the fighting men as they manned the trenches during the terrible years of Warfare. Harry Williams, unable to take part in the conflict, died in 1924, having played a bigger part than he would have thought possible.  The Annie Othen Show, BBC Radio Coventry and Warwickshire, February 25th, 2014.

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

June 18, 2011 at 4:43 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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Jane Bunford, Bartley Green.


About 20 years ago, someone raised the story of  Jane Bunford,  the Giantess of Bartley Green. There were many questions left unanswered. She was probably born in Scotland Lane, Northfield, but the date of September, 1895, is certainly correct. The youngest child of John and Jane Bunford, (nee Andrews) she began to suffer from a Pituary Gland malfunction, almost as soon as she started school, in 1899. By the time she was 25, her height had reached 7ft 9ins. Now I don't know if some of these sort of problems, are caused by too close family marriages, but her Mother and Father were cousins. There's no link back in time on her Fathers side, as her grandfather, Joseph Bunford, had married, in 1852, at the age of 33, Jane Turner, who was born in Springhill, Hasbury, Halesowen. Her parents had married in 1877, and then went on th have at least 7 ( possibly, one prior to the marriage ) children, Jane having 3 brothers, and 3 sisters, non of whom had the same problem, but may well have had others not reported. John Bunford, her father, died in 1916, at aged 60, after a long time working as a Brass Caster. Jane went to live with her brother Harry Bunford, at 284, Jiggens Lane, Bartley Green, but was only rarely seen out, as her height was a constant problem for the rather shy young woman. She had, as can be expected, great difficulty in getting clothes to fit, and the house's, at that time were fairly small, she had problems even getting through the low doors.You would have trouble, even today, finding a bed that would accomodate such a tall woman, and as a result, she began to suffer from curvature of the spine. She died in June, 1922, at the age of 26, from complications associated with her condition. And now begins the mystery, starting with her burial. Her Coffin, 8ft 2ins long, had not been lowered into the ground above a few months, when questions started to be asked, about just how much of Jane was actually in it. An enormously tall skeleton, had appeared in the Anotomical Museum, Birminghan University, and you can guess the kind of questions that were being asked. There were however, no answers fothcoming, as everyone, especially the family, now became very close lipped. Speculatation now became the "in"  thing in Bartley Green, and it rapidily spread. There were lurid, and gruesome tales of " Body Snatching ", and the local undertakers began to see a loss of business. Then stories began to circulate, that a family member had suddenly had a boost to their bank balance. This restored the lack of trust, and the " Dead end Job " once more picked up. The University came under great pressure, so much so, that a statement was issued saying that they had no records, of the name of the last " owner " of the skeleton in question. This did not stop the rumours, and in what apparently was a last desperate act, they announced that the object had somehow now been " mislaid. " All went quiet, for the next 50 years, until in the early 1970s, in a parish magazine, an article on the subject appeared. There doesn't seem to be any doubt, that it was inserted, by the family, to some renewed local whispers. It went on to repeat what had been stated by the University, and added, " that the family had a clear recollection of their father, presenting the remains of poor Jane to the Medical School. This caused a deep probing of local memories, and a out pouring of scorn and derision. They had not forgotten you see, that her father had died in 1916, a full 6 years before she had, and, unless John Bunford had somehow managed to shake off the soil of the grave, and get himself to Birmingham, it was impossible. So, refusing to take such a gigantic leap of faith, the locals once again began to speculate. It even managed to interest a TV company. In all honesty, the only one at the time who could have arranged such a thing, would have been Jane, the mother. Mind you, she was 65 at the time of the death, penniless except for the Pension, and would have been easily pursueded. She died in 1934, the secret locked away in her failed memory. That just leaves one other, the son called " Harry ", in effect, James Henry Bunford, born in 1889, and  with whom Jane was living, at 284, Jiggins Lane, when she died. Was it then a coincidence, that when he died in 1970, an article should appear in a magazine, on the very subject that had dogged him for years. There are still relatives out there, who have, or may have, the answer. The Skeleton by the way is still missing. Now I know the old saying about not speaking ill of the dead, but its been over 40 years now, time to solve the riddle I think, and put poor Jane Bunford, or whats left of her, to rest, and not leave her on a stand, in some dusty and long forgotten cupboard.

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

May 15, 2011 at 11:55 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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Tipton, George Baker, Hampstead Mine, Dudley Port Explosion.


The Region has had a few Black Country Poets as well over the years, and I've been reminded, that Tipton also had a home grown talent. George Baker, who was born in the town in 1881, wrote his lines, mainly to raise funds following a few local disasters. His Family, well known in Tipton, ran a Hardware business, form a shop in Owen Street. He was a familier sight around the town, delivering houshold essentials, and lamp oil. It was on these rounds, that he also sold his poetic Ballards, at a penny a time. Goerge, and his brother Joseph, also served as Councillors, where they preformed their duties, for the benefit of all. His best known, and probably longest work, was a ballard covering the terrible accident at Hamstead Mine. Many men from West Bromwich and some from Tipton, lost their lives at the mine in 1908, when the pit suffered a severe fire. All the proceeds, from this and one written about " The Dudley Port Explosion, 1922 , went directly to the disaster fund. George Baker passed away in 1955, not the worlds best Poet, but a man with a heart of gold.


I have copies of both Ballards, should anyone be interested. Available via e-mail. No charge of course.


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

April 12, 2011 at 11:25 AM Flag Quote & Reply