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A voice on the internet for the residents of Aldridge

 

Aldridge Memory lane

Posted by Dusan Popratnjak, 11/1/08 at 10:03:17 PM.

 

 

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Down Memory lane is a section where information about Aldridge and the changes can be recorded and passed on as a matter of interest.

We thank current residents and former residents for supplying us with this information,

 

Aldridge and Brownhills

Aldridge used to be situated in South Staffordshire,covering over 20 square miles,between the Warwickshire border and Cannock Chase,it used to be Aldridge - Brownhills Urban District,it rapididly became a developing area of the now West Midlands.It used to comprises of the townships of Aldridge and Brownhills,also including Ogley Hay(WS8),Pelsall,Pheasey,Rushall,Shelfield and High Heath,Streetly,Shire Oak(WS9)and Walsall Wood (WS9).

Constituted in 1966 of the greater parts of the former seperate Aldridge and Brownhills Urban Districts it is mainly residential in character.

Conviently near Birmingham and theBlack Country,this Urban district possesses large areas of green belt and public open space including the heights of Barr Beacon in the South and in the north Chasewater park.

A brief history

The imprint of history goes deeply in this part of England.Several historians of past centuries claimed that Castle Ring (Cannock Chase),and Barr Beacon were the head quarters of the Arch Druid of Britain. Bourne Pool to the east of the urban district,and Knaves Castle,Watling Street,and some other ancient areas within the urban district were also accorded similar romantic theories,now discounted by modern historians. Iron age and bronze age relics have been found in Roman tools and other relics have been found in the old iron- stone quarries,indicating that these were being worked nearly two thousand years ago. It was believed that a brother of Caewlin,a king of Wessex,was burried at Shire Oak after being killed in the battle of Cutha in the year 584.It is an established fact that some parts of the old  urban district had settled communities at least a thousand years ago.

Eight centuries earlier still the Romans were constructing their great roads throughout the country,one of which,named Ryknield Street,crossed Watling Street at Wall, just outside of the old urban district.

The place name of Streetly indicates its course through the old urban district from Sutton Park,where over a mile of this ancient road has been largely preserved,and on through the village and along what is called Roman Road,to Little Aston.

Watling Street,continuing westwards from Wall to Wroxeter,can still be traced in places beside the straight course of the present main road between Brownhills and Chasewater.

Aldridge is recorded in the Domesday Survey as Alrewic,whilst the first reference to Ogley Hay (Hocentune in Domesday) which was part of Cannock forest,occurs as early as the year 996 when it was bestowed on the monks of Wolverhampton.

Rushall (Rischale) and Shelfield (Scelfield) are also recorded in the Domesday Survey,and all were small agriculural communities.

Like other manors and estates ,these were given by William the Conqeeror to his knights and followers.Later in Norman times mention is made of Pelsall  whose manorial lord was Richard de Corbeuil,a descendant of William I.

At that time the overlord of Aldridge was the well known William Fitz Ansculfand the Neels then held the manor of Aldridge. From the early part of the 13th century Walsall Wood and Shelfield formed part of the large manor of the Foreign of Walsall.

 

Sports facilities in Aldridge.

In Britain land for sporting activity has always been under pressure from other land uses which can generate higher land values.Aldridge Cricket club now known as the "Stick andWicket" - were very lucky in being able to purchase the free hold of their ground in the 1950's.Other sports facilities in Aldridge have come and gone !

The Nursery,Whetstone Lane.

The Nursery had a good ash surfaced hard tennis court which was available for hire by individuals or clubs.This was laid out in the 1920's or 1930's.It disappeared when the Nursery was sold for building land in 1959.

The Chapel Field.

Although "Church and Chapel" cricket anfd football leagues were less popular in the Midlands than in Lancashire and Yorkshire many churches- particularly non - conformist ones - ran teams.In 1936 one of the attractions of the large plot of land off Anchor Road to the trustees of the new joint Methodist Church was that it would enable them to run a football team.This they did until the 1950's.The land was taken for road building.

The Orphanage Football pitch.

The Orphanage on Walsall Wood Road had a football pitch for the use of their own boys.It was made available to local teams also.It disappeared with the redevelopment of the site after it was sold by Dr Barnardo's.

 

Leighswood or Joberns Park.

At the end of the war community spirit was high.There was the relief that the war was over and also joint experiences in the ARP,Home Guard etc..Mr Joberns owned one of the brick works at Stubbers Green and lived in one of the large detached Edwardian houses at the bottom of Leighswood Road.He owned the field opposite,partly behind the station masters house.

In 1945/6 he made this land available to a local committee to be developed as a park.Part was laid out as a football pitch.A large wooden buildind was errected as a changing room/pavillion.Other childrens play equipment was installed and shrubberies planted.In the summer there were fetes and other activities to raise money.Much of the work was done by voluntary labour.

McKechnies built their main factory in Middlemore Lane in 1953.The Head offices and administration remained at their original plant in Birmingham.At some time in the late 1950's they bought the park and built their impressive Head office building there.

The mechanics of this land transfer would be worth researching.If Mr Joberns had given the freehold of the park to the committee then the decision to sell would be theirs.For various reasons they would have thought it worthwhile doing so egthere may have been debts.If Mr Joberns had only given the "use" of the land then his executors after his death would have been able to sell the land "over the heads" of the park committee.What was the policy of the UDC who wanted to attract firms like McKechnies and also were developing their own park at the other end of Leighswood Road.

 

Written by Geoffrey Boulton. (April 2000)

 

Scouting in Aldridge.

The (Boy)scout movement was established in Aldridge some time in the inter-war period.The Head quarters was a large wooden hut (possibly WW1 military surplus) in Paddock Lane.It may have been a "sponsored " Group in that there were occasional Church Parades at the Anglican Mission Church in Tynings Lane.In the early 1940's the scouts were run by a Mrs Whitehouse who lived in Whetstone Lane.Her son who had been Scout master was away in the forces.Her daughter ran the Wolf Cubs as "Akela" or Lady cub master.The Group suddenly closed in 1943. (Was there a personal tradegy such as the son being killed ?)

The building was later used by Cyril Parkes,a Gents Hairdresser with a shop on Leighswood Avenue,as a ballroom dance studio.This was then bought by a local group of local Labour activists for Aldridge Labour Club.Roomsfor toilets,offices and meeting rooms were added around the original building which formed the central "function room".The shape and size of the "scout hut" was preserved in the lay out of the later premises.That part of the village had been traditionally "Labour".That part of the Station Road are typical of Cannock Chase miners' cottages and probably were built for workers at the Victoria or Speedwell Colliery on Middlemore Lane.The Co-op Grocery shop was on Station Road rather than in the village centre.The inter - war Council houses were built on Walsall Road,New Road and Tynings Lane.

A number of boys in the village went to Queen Marys Grammar School in Walsall and joined the 13th Walsall (QMS) Scout group there.After the War the Scout Association had "Bob a Job" Week as a fundraising effort during the school Easter holidays.In 1954 members of the 13th Walsall got permission from the Urban District Council to pitch tents and make a camp at the top of Leighswood Road as a "job office" for the week.At that time there was a rough car park on the corner of Anchor Road and Leighswood Road with grass patches around a group of oak trees and between the WW2 Air Raid shelters which were still in place.This was a very successful venture and over £100 was raised - a lot of money then.

This raised local awareness of the movement and parents encouraged Mr Thompson the Head teacher of the Cooper and Jordan Junior and Infants school to start a (wolf) cub pack.(Mr Boulton helped him with this until he joined the RAF in September 1954).Shortly afterwards a family called Pickstock who had been active in scouting in Birmingham came to the village and helped develop a full scout group.The scout Headquarters in Middlemore Lane was built later.

Geoffrey Boulton april 2000.

 

Youth Work in Aldridge

Scouts

The Scout Groupin Middlemore Lane have been collecting materail for the Centenary of Scouting in 2007.

 

Guides

There was a Guide company at the Methodist Church from before the war.For many years in the1950's it was run by Mrs Lote.

Youth Clubs.

War Time.

In 1940  the Government was worried about young people with so many adults called up or working long shifts. As a result the"Service of Youth" was set up.This sponsored various types of clubs (Usually based on the model of the Youth Clubs Association) or sports leagues e.g.Football.(In Lancaster the Youth Football League is called "The Service of Youth League.)

In Aldridge Colonel Cartwright lived in a big house on Leighswood Road - later Millington Plan Prints.He became Commanding Officer of the local Home Guard.He allowed the former outhouses and stables to be used for a Youth Club.

MAYC.

After the war,the Methodist Association of Youth Clubs was established using the various premises of Methodist churches.After the publication of the Albermale Report (c 1958) local and national government was allowed to grant aid youth work sponsored by church and other bodies.MAYC was one of the organisations which benefited most from this.In Aldridge earlier Methodist youth work such as a strong football team and a large Sunday School and bible class formed the basis of a new Youth Club,affilated to MAYC.this was during the ministry of Rev Edwin J.Turner.This had weekday games evenings and a Saturday night social with dancing ( this was the era of Guy Mitchell).Some years the club ran a summer holiday to the Methodist holiday centre in the Channel Isles.( The Church ran a club reunion a short while ago)

Local Authority Youth Activity.

Lancashire Education Committee covered a very diverse area and compared with many city local authorities was late in developing a comprehensive service.During the War the old Manor House had been taken over by the County Council for the ARP and the Auxiliary Fire Service.After the war the main building was restored for use as a library and other rooms were made available for the Youth Service.

by Geoffrey Boulton (2008)

 

Thomas Albert Hawkins (1855 - 1936)

There is some information about Thomas Albert Hawkins,he moved in to Aldridge Court which was the largest "gentleman's seat" in the village and was quite close to the parish church.

The Methodist cause in the village was an interesting situation.There was a Wesleyan Chapel which was burnt down in the early 1930's and a small Primitive Methodist Chapel which was very limited in size. After Methodist Union in 1933 the two churches agreed to amalgamate and build a new church.This was probably the first "joint" church following the union.

In spite of his Methodist involvement in Cheslyn Hay,Mr Tom did not take any part in Methodism in Aldridge.There are no immediately obvious signs of any contribution to the new church (e.g.stones).He attended worship at the Parish Church and was buried in the church grave yard.

 

Geoffrey Boulton (June 2004).

 

Alfred Henry Boulton and Aldridge Home Guard

When the local  Defence Voluntees were formed Alfred Boulton (Alf) was one of the first to join in Aldridge.He had considered joining the TA after Munich so was in the right frame of mind.Shortly afterwards LDV became the Home Guard.

The booklets enclosed include descriptions of the structire of the Homme Guard in the Aldridge District under its CO,Colonel Cartwright who lived further up Leighswood Road.On joining up Alf was asked to consider taking a commission as he had been in the OTC at Queen Marys  but he was heavily committed with other war work as a haulage contractor.For example,he was on the list to take spare parts from Helliwells(usually cockpits of Hurricanes) to airfields and repair factories in south east England at short notice.He remained a private officially for the duration of his service but for most of the time was "Acting Corporal" in charge of a unit.

Towards the end of his life he admittedbeing one of the people chosen to remain behind enemy lines in the event of invasion to carry out resistance and sabotage.

Various properties were taken over as local bases.One unit had its HQ in a terraced house alongside Wharf bridge in Stubbers Green.Alf's unit had the cottage on Walsall Wood Road by the end of Noddy Park Road.A rifle range was laid out on top of the pit heap of the former Leighswood Colliery.Initially equipment was short and a WW1 .303 rifle which Alf had found working on demolition in Walsall was used for rifle drill demonstrations.

There were  various rehearsals for "set pieces" of defence in the event of invasion e.g. at the top of Hobs Hole Lane where a car was parked to be pushed into the narrowest part (The car was a great plaything for the local children and eventually disintegrated !)

In the early days there was a great fear of " Fifth Columnists" and the reservoirs on top of Barr Beacon had to be defended to prevent poisoning.Alf was up there the night Birmingham got its first major air raid and had a "grand standseat".

Later there were regular patrols to apprehend parachuting German Airmen and to guard any crashed air craft - both British and  German.He was on one such patrol the night Aldridge had its one air raid - probably from an air craft getting rid of the last of its load after attacking Birmingham or Coventry.A stick of incendiaries fell on the Conservative Club and damaged the billiard table and an oil bomb fell in a field down Hobs Hole Lane near where Alf's patrol were walking.(The site was visible as a crop mark for several years afterwards).The patrol included Fred Titbetts who had the farm on Bakers Lane. A herd of his cows  were in the next field and took off in the direction of Stonnall taking all before them.- gates and hedges included.The rest of the night was spent rounding up the cows,an activity which probably didn't get into the official report.

 

by Geoffrey Boulton  (May 2006)

Ray Clare

(Portland Drive,Aldridge.)

 

Ray Clare was born and bred in Aldridge.His family were the main village builders and also acted as undertakers.

Ray was a very good cricketer being one of Aldridge cricket clubs highest scoers in the years after World War 2.He was also a strong churchman singing inthe choir at the parish church.

He contacted TB and died after a period of illness in about 1950.

 

Cutting from Aldridge Parish Magazine.

In Memoriam.

It is with great regret that we record the death of Ray Clare.I can add little to what has already been said by others.But I cannot let this opportunity pass without mentioning his connection with our choir.From boyhood to manhood he gave faithfull service.Rarely was he ever absent from service and it was most encouraging to see himsitting in his accustomed place.Now he is no longer with us.As Christians we cannot regret his passing into the Presence of the Saviour.But we shall sadly miss his kindly presence and loyal help.Hewas always cheerful when ever I saw him during his long confinement.May God raise up others to fill his place.Our sympathy and prayers go with those he loved.We await the coming of the "morning without clouds" when He shall come to call us to a glad re-union and to our entry to our Eternal Home

For some time he had been engaged to Miss Ethel Pointon,the daughter of Harry Pointen,Aldridges last blacksmith.She never married.For many years she worked for Hilditchs when it was a grocers and later a hardware store.

 

by Geoffrey Boulton (2004)

 

 

The Romping Cat

The Romping cat and possible liks to droving.

Betty Fox (1996) in Street names of Aldridge mentions the Rompin cat (page 43,t his seems an unsual spelling.

In the 1950's " The Romping Cat " was still part of the local folk memory.Directions would be given such as "down Erdington Road - just past "the Romping cat".There were foundations of buildings clearly visible near the road and in the field behind which were reputed to be parts of the inn.

The derivation of the name given by old Council workmen with whom I worked in the late 1950's ,wasthat it originally had a sign which included a "rampant lion" either free standing (e.g.White/Red/Golden Lion) or as part of a coat of arms.A badly painted version of this lion was facetiously called "The Romping Cat"

The construction of the Midland Railway involved deep cuttings near this point and high embankments near Little Aston.Thus large numbers of navvies many of them Irish would be working here for some time.As Betty Fox suggests they would have found this pub,very convenient.It is probably that this was already in existance before the railway construction,and possible links can be suggested with droving.

K.J.Bonser (1970)The Drovers in chapter 15 "Drove Roads from the Welsh Border"writes on page 193" Thene they would pass through Newport to the Rising Sun at Brownhills, & Stafford,probably most of them,if only to evade tolls and ensure more miles on softer surface,turning in a southerly direction through Aldridge (Welshmans Hill).

Jim Gould (1957)in the book "Men of Aldridge"also describes how drovers avoided Chester Road which was Turnpiked with Toll Gates in 1759 by passing through Walsall Wood or Pelsall and Aldridge.The areas of unenclosed land are clearly shown on Yate's Map of Staffordshire of 1769 and later smaller scale maps e.g.Smith (1801).This could help to explainthe original aligment of Noddy Park Road which would enable flocks/herds to come off Aldridge Common and miss the village High Street before rejoining unenclosed land near Erdington Road.When the land was enclosed Walsall Wood Road, Stonnall Road and Erdington Road all had stretches with the wide grass verges which characterise drove roads.

In villages on the Scottish Drove road through Cumbria,where there are two inns today the tradition is that the one in the centre of the village was for the villagers,while the one on the edge catered for the drovers.This is logical in that drovers would want to be near their animals  which had been  bedded down for the night.In Aldridge such a site would have been that of the "Romping Cat".In that Welsh droving was seasonal it is possible that it did not have a proper inn licence and only opened when needed.

This route was probably also followed by the slow moving long distance carters who would also want grazing and bedding for their horses.

written by Geoffrey Bolton (April 2000)

 

Methodism in Aldridge

Betty fox (Aldridge History Trail 1990 and Street Names of Aldridge 1996) is obviously unfamiliar with Methodist history.Ebenezer Primitive Methodist Chapel certainly did not close as a result of loss of members !

In the 19th centurythe Methodist Church was established by John Wesley   split into a number of seperate " connexions " with slight differences in doctorine and organisation.In the Midlands the two main churches were the Primitive Methodists (founded in north Staffordshire) and the Wesleyan Methodists.

Large villages such as Aldridge often had chapels from both churches.

The Primitive Methodists had stronger working class roots particularly with mining and quarrying industries and the location of their chapel at the foot of Leighswood Road alongside Brickyard Row was significant.Many of their members (e.g the Simmons family) were mining families.The Wesleyan Methodists tended to have more middle class members (e.g the Whitehouses who kept the drapers shop in the High Street.)

In 1932 most of the Methodist Churches in Britain came together in a Deed of Union to form one church.

In Aldridge about this time the Wesleyan Church building was damaged by fire.The congrgation had to hold its services in the Assembly Rooms in Rookery Lane ( 0n the current junction of Portland Road- Rookery Lane site of the library).This was the only large building in the village and functioned as a "village hall",but was owned by the Conservative Party.To worship under the gaze of framed photographs  of Tory Prime ministers could only  be regarded as a temporary measure !This encouraged negotiations between the two congrgationsand it decided to build a new "joint " Methodidy church. A large field fronting on to Anchor Road was purchased.This had space for a church building with extensive Sunday School rooms,a manse (built much later) and a footballfield.The new church opened in 1936 was one of the first "united" Methodist church in the country.The former Prmitive Methodist church building was sold for industry.The site of the Wesleyan Methodist church remained derelict for over twenty years.

The new church was called "Wesley Hall" - possibly because it was linked to the Walsall Methodist Central Hall rather than being in one of the two Circuits which were still organised on pre- union lines.

The arcitect's brief included a requirement  to use bricks made in the village as the main building materail.

One of the traditional fundraising methods was for donors to "buy a brick",in this case literally !

In the main room at about four feetabove the ground there is a double line of hand made bricks in which the name of the donor was impressed just before firing.This gives a unique list of surnames in the village and the local Methodist community in the 1930's.

The premises included three large Sunday School rooms and an institute for games such as snooker.In the second World War the village received many "unofficial" evacuees and Staffordshire Education Committee took over these rooms for a temporary Infants School for children living south of the railway line.

By Geoffrey Boulton (April 2000)

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22.10.2014

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