Do you have any memories from growing up in Cheslyn Hay that you would like to share.. This page is devoted to Memories. So we are now looking to anyone who has ever lived in Cheslyn Hay to recall some of their memories – whether happy, sad or just poignant. And whether times were better in the more austere years of during the war and just afterwards – or would you prefer life as it is today. And would you begrudge your grandchildren all their computer related toys in this high tech age?
So please dig into your memory banks and share those priceless memories with us all.
Please email memories to: firstname.lastname@example.org
July 2018 – This week we look back on the memories of Phil from Wolverhampton who has summarised his thoughts on the teachers during his time at the Great Wyrley School!
Bob Pointon – Science. Known to deviate from the set lessons. He once spent the entire lesson telling us about his part in the raid on the Peenemunde V-Rocket Base at the end of WWII. I hope he wrote his war memoirs as they’d certainly be worth reading!
Denis Fellows – PE/Sports. He was a liberal and enthusiastic user of corporal punishment. Today he would be in jail for GBH.
Ted Turner – replaced Denis Fellows but was drowned in a tragic accident off the Southwest coast.
Stan Burton – Maths. Good at all sports especially tennis, cricket and chess. Later member of St Stephens Church.
Walter Jeynes – Woodwork. Good singer, later member of the Cannock Operatic Society.
Clive ‘Cazza’ Kendrick – Geography. Good cricketer, but replaced by an even better one – Ken Handley.
Bill Harris – Music. Taught us the Cornelius Whitehouse Christmas Carol. Nice one Bill!
Mrs Aston – English. Aka Fanny or Edie. Producer of the Gilbert & Sullivan shows.
Mabel Wilson – RE and Deputy Head. Aka ‘Billie’.
David Gardiner Good Head, ex-Chadsmoor. Footballer who played for Bolton. Got the top job at Calving Hill School in Cannock in 1960 and took Mr Aston and Mr Kendrick with him. Replaced by William ‘Billy-Egg’ Davies from Bridgtown.
Cuthbert Bale – Deputy Head and History. Aka as ‘Diddler’ after a misunderstanding over the awarding of House points at Sports Day!
Florrie Watson – Maths. Came from Pelsall and was one of the first female members of the Railway Preservation Society in the pre-Chasewater days.
May 2018 – More memories from Kathy Reeves (nee Brough) of Stoke and entitled ‘Good Memories and Sad Memories’.
My Dad worked at Hawkins Colliery and was once taken to hospital with broken ribs after being knocked down by a coal laden truck. When he had recovered he returned to work but at Rosemary Tileries and therefore we had to move out of our little cottage in Low Street because they were only for the pitworkers. Mary Scott who lived with her family nearby also worked at the Tileries andÂ I used to love it when Mrs Scott would invite me into her home to have a cup of tea with her son Albert. I remember such lovely times in Cheslyn Hay such as playing hopscotch with my friend Margaret Carpenter outside the Chemists in the High Street but everything was to dramatically change when I was just eight years old. My mother Mary Brough had a little girlÂ Patricia in June 1941 but she never fully recovered from the childbirth and she passed away in September. She was just thirty years of age. A few weeks later our baby sister was adopted and my Dad left home for two years and our grandmotherÂ Sarahlooked after my younger brother Tom and me, working her fingers to the bone in different pubs every night. We both had to adapt very quickly and help grandmother as much as we could. I used to go to the Red Lion in the High Street cleaning tables and chairs, mopping floors and sweeping out the backyard for Mr Fred Perks and his wife. Grandma also worked for Mr Ted Rodwell and his wife at the Colliers Arms. They were very nice to me, but everyone, in fact, in the village helped us to manage. Particularly during school holidays when I was always doing jobs.
Our weekly treat was on a Saturday night when I would take Tom to the Bricklayers Arms. Grandma would already be there with two other ladies in a very small room that only had one table and three chairs and when she saw us she would buy us a packet of crisps (with a small blue bag of salt inside) and a bottle of Vimto each to have whilst we sat on the pub step. Then Grandma would take us up to the sweet shop opposite Dundalk Lane and we could have the choice of the sweets in any of the jars on all of the shelves for a few ha’pennies that she gave us. Then holding our hands Grandmother Sarah would cross us over the street, down passed the Salem back to our home at the back of the Chemist’s in the High Street.
More memories from Kath Reeves (nee Brough) of Stoke. (April 2018)
My father,Â Tom Brough, used to go to Hassalls shop in the High Street to get his accumulator topped up so he could listen to the wireless. This he loved and he would rest me on his feet and dance me around with him I would only be about six years old andÂ my Grandmother Sarah would shout at him ‘Tom, be careful – you’re striding round like an ostrich!’
A friend of mine was Margie Matthews from Dundalk Lane and when I was ten and living at the back of the Chemist’s shop my stepmother Ellen Brough had a lovely little girl and she was named Helen. And I would take her a walk with Margie in her big black pram with high wheels to Dundalk Lane and through all the fields and past a farm and all along Landywood Lane. I also remember Jean and Brenda Hawkins who lived at the top of Low Street and they were sisters and we used to play with a whip and top, whipping it all the way down the street to where Brenda HickenÂ used to live. I remember my brother Tom making an iceslide opposite Heminsley’s wall and straight across the road opposite our house in Low Street. All the lads used to be on it and all the girls enjoyed watching them.
Father also had cockerels in the backyard in a small pen and other men who lived in the same long yard in Low Street would also bring their cockerels along to fight. I used to be told to go down our entry to look out for the village policeman but once he came down from the station in the High Street and saw all the men wildly running around like the cockerels themselves. We used to lay out a piece of string and wait for anybody walking down Low Street but one day a drunken old man was thumping the walls of the houses all down the street. He stepped over the string and one of the lads asked him why he was hitting the walls and he said he was making sure they didn’t fall down!
This month’s Memories (March)
Rob CartwrightÂ completes his excellent ‘memoirs’ this month with his schooldays up to when he went to Cannock Grammar School.
Cheslyn Hay Pinfold School 1948 – 53. My primary schooldays were spent at the old village school and in those days there was no Playschools or Nurseries and you went straight to full time school at the age of five. I seem to remember my first teacher was Miss Thomas, and I had Miss Hulse, Mrs Price, Mr Berry and in my final year ‘Taffy’ Blount. They were all strict and you took no liberties. They had dispensed with the cane by then but Mr Blount was still handy with the slipper. The premises were very basic but were open in all weathers and conditions – a few inches of snow made no difference. The winters were very harsh with the rooms cold, the windows frosted up and the milk would often be frozen and you had to wait for it to thaw out I played for the football team with mixed fortunes. I remember one away match at Great Wyrley when I scored but we lost 8 – 3. few weeks later we went to a school in Hednesford and we lost 11 – 1. Mr Blount was not a happy man. I seem to recall for away matches most of the lads used to pile in the back of a transit van – no health and safety or safeguarding in those days I failed the 11 plus in spite of being expected to pass and in fact only two of our class,Â John Middleton and Ian Bickley, passed and the rest of us went to Great Wyrley Secondary School.
GreatÂ Wyrley Secondary School 1953 – 55. I only spent two years at the school, as I took the 13 plus exam in my second year and passed to the new Cannock Grammar School where I finished myschooling. The head of the Great Wyrley School when I went there was David Gardner, a respected local Methodist preacher. The one overriding memory of Great Wyrley was the discipline. Whilst the cane had been discarded at Cheslyn Hay, it certainly hadn’t at Great Wyrley. Three particular events etched in my memory were –
A group of lads caught smoking – they were called on the stage after morning assembly and each given six of the best by the Head in front of the whole school. It made you shudder just watching.
After PE one day back in the changing rooms,Â Victor Fidler did something amiss and Mr Follows gave him the cane and he hit him with such force he broke the cane.
At lunch one day the children were instructed not to go on the grass playing fields. After lunch Mr Jeynes caught a lad who I think was one of the Smithymans. He wqas summoned to the woodwork room after lunch with the stick and book. We were having woodwork and were ready for class when he came in. Walter gave him four strokes right in front of me and the one thing I remember was the lad not batting an eyelid which greatly annoyed the teacher.
I never had the cane but had the slipper a few times I think the nearest I ever came was in one history lesson with Cuthbert Bale. I had made a complete mess of the previous week’s homework and he called me to the front and walked over to the cupboard where he kept his cane. I feared the worst but fortunately he fetched out the slipper and I only had a warming of the bottom.
Rob Cartwright continues with ‘Pastimes in Days gone by’.
Shooting – Alec Hart had ‘real rifles’ which were used for official shoots and we would clean them afterwards. Michael Hart also had a pellet gun which the two of us would play with. I recall one day Michael, Roger Wollaston and me were playing in Harold Wollaston‘s back garden using the pellet gun. One shot ricocheted off a wall and went into the back of my leg. I got it out with a pen knife and when I got home I told my mother I had stuck a meat hook in my leg. Not sure she believed me or not. It went sceptic.
Up the Cut – This was another favourite place to visit. There was a swingbridge partway along the canal and this was a regular meeting place. One day Michael, my sister,Â Sheila Cartwright, and me were playing up there and Michael fell in. He managed to scramble out and after drying him out as best we could smuggled him back to the house where he changed. I don’t think think he told his parents what had happened. We also used to play around the ‘Razza’ a lot but we always kept out of the water. It was, of course, much bigger then coming almost up the Coppice Lane on the one side and the ‘Monkey Muck’ works was on the other.
Holidays – Whilst money was always in short supply at our house we always had a week’s holiday in the summer. For many years we would go to Rhyl and stay in a wooden shack (you couldn’t really call it a bungalow) on the Robim Hood camp. The site is still there today but the old bungalows have gone. We used to travel there and back by Harpers coach picking up at Hassell’s shop. We had wonderful sunny days then. I also remember going to Prestatyn on Sundays with the Hart family. Mrs Hart would prepare food and we would set off in the van with Mike and me in the back.
Memories from Rob Cartwright of Cross Street
My mate in those days was Michael Hart and many of my schoolboy adventures were with him. In general terms life was so much more relaxed in those days. We could play in the street and if there were a dozen cars up and down a day it was really busy.We could play out anywhere unsupervised and we took full advantage of this. Some specific recollections I have were –
Camping Out. Michael had a tent, but it was a big green heavy canvas thing, not like todays lightweight versions. It would take two to three hours to put up and I only ever remember us camping in his back garden as they had the luxury of a lawn. Michael also had a primus stove and we would cook our own chips etc. They tasted awful, but we survived.
Carting. In those days kids built carts frompram wheels and wooden boxes and we were no exception. We used to take the cart to Landywood Lane where you could build up a right head of steam going down the hill without having to worry about the traffic. I day I came off halfway down the hill and cut my knee and leg open. After crawling home, Mom sent for Dr Williams who took a look at iut and decided it was too much of a mess to stitch, so he dressed it. I was sidelined for a couple of weeks with the doctor coming in every day to redress it. Could you imagine this today? I still have the scar on my knee to this day.
Recreation Ground. This was one of our favourite jaunts. There was a range of rides which wouldn’t have a hope of passing todays Health and Safety Brigade. One such ride at the bottom end near the old Community Centre was the ‘liver stretcher’. It was a long seat for about six passengers with handles to hold on to. Two drivers would stand on either end and would get up to full speed by using their legs and feet after pushstarting it. When in full flight the passengers would slide on the wooden seat and one day I got a large wooden splint in my backside which wouldn’t come out. I went home and vaguely recall Mom marching me up to the Feredays, the Chemists at the top of Cross Street, in what is now the sweet shop. He got some implement out and extracted the splinter before putting some ointment and a plaster on. You could say thatÂ Fereday invented the first ‘Walk-in Clinic’.
Continuing with more memories from Robert Cartwright who lived in Cross Street known as Town Well – December 2017
After Mount Zion there were two or three cottages with more round the corner in Low Street, but I have little recollection of these or their occupants. I know that they were pretty basic premises with few facilities. The Town Well side consisted of three executive properties and one, perhaps two, small houses.
Cheslyn Lodge. This was the large property at the top of the street. It was occupied by Mr Leslie Hawkins who, along with his brother Arnold, was the joint managing director of Longford Tileries. It was a massive property with equally large grounds. The main residence still exists today but has been split into several flats. A row of 4-5 bungalows have been built in the grounds off a new entrance – Cheslyn Drive. I do not remember much of the occupants or the grounds as it was strictly ‘out of bounds’. I do recall creeping into them on a few occasions tthough and marvelling at the grounds and tennis court. There was a factory on the far corner of the site and I just recollect it being very noisy from the High Street end near the Salem Church.
Grasmere. This was a large property at the bottom of the street and occupied by Mr Arnold Hawkins. It was very large with extensive grounds. Apart from his obvious links with the Hawkins empire Arnold was best remembered as organist and choirmaster at Salem Church for over fifty years. Arnold played a major role in making Salem the centre of musical life in Cannock Chase inviting world famous artists to the village. I believe they would stay at Grasmere when appearing at Salem. Tragically the house was demolished some years ago to be replaced by a dozen or so houses fronting Low Street. Again I do not recall much of the occupants or the premises as this place was also guarded like a fortress. My only recollections of venturing into the grounds was to sing carols outside the house with the Salem Church at Christmas.
The Park. This was the third large property approached by a separate driveway off Cross Street. This house remains intact today and is little altered over the years.
Cottages. There were one or two cottages along this driveway and I remember the Bird family living there. They had a son Tony, who was about the same age as my elder brother Frank. The father was a coach driver and some days the coach would be parked overnight in Cross Street. It was quite a novelty in those days, but I have no knowledge of the premises.
Memories of Cross Street from Rob Cartwright continued -Â November 2017
After theÂ Paradine‘s house was the Mount Zion chapel.Â This was the chapel where my family and I together with many other villagers grew up.Â As a member and treasurer of the Salem Methodist Church in the High Street for over forty years I shall have to be careful what I say.Â On second thoughts – I sharn’t.Â Mount Zion was always regarded as the working class church whereas Salem was the church of the Hawkins family and the ‘better heeled’.Â I recall my days in the Sunday School at Zion – it was always a large Sunday School with sessions in the morning and in the afternoon.Â The morning one being led by Joe Dutton and the afternoon by his wife whose name escapes me.Â I think they lived in Company Buildings. The highlights of the Sunday School year being –
Anniversaries – three services on the day and two a couple of weeks later.Â We practised for weeks beforehand and there was a prize for the first scholar who could recite all the words as no hymn sheets were allowed on the day.
Annual Outings on a Saturday in the summer.Â Several coachloads would depart for such exotic venues as the Lickey Hills, Stourport etc.
Christmas Party – The older members of the Church would lay on a spread but we all had to take our own plate, dish and spoon.Â After the feast we had a film show with the likes of Laurel and Hardy etc.
Eisteddfods -Â These were a circuit type event and covered all sorts of subjects and age ranges.Â Prizes and certificates were presented to everyone.Â Mount Zion had always been in the Bloxwich circuit whilst Salem was in the Cannock one.
A couple of years later it was decided Zion was unsafe and that it should close with membership being transferred to the Salem but this did not go down well with someÂ members.Â A few refused to joiin Salem and went to the other churches instead.Â We had some excellent leaders and teachers at Zion who were a great influence to me.Â One I particularly recall wasÂ Marjorie PeeÂ and her parents.
Memories of Cross Street from Rob Cartwright – October 2017
Memories of Cross Street from Rob Cartwright Next to Paradine’s house was the Mount Zion chapel. This was the chapel where my family and I together with many other villagers grew up. As a member and treasurer of the Salem Methodist Church in the High Street for over forty years I shall have to be careful what I say. On second thoughts – I sharn’t. Mount Zion was always regarded as the working class church whereas Salem was the church of the Hawkins family and the ‘better heeled’. I recall my days in the Sunday School at Zion – it was always a large Sunday School with sessions in the morning and in the afternoon. The morning one being led by Joe Dutton and the afternoon by his wife whose name escapes me. I think they lived in Company Buildings. The highlights of the Sunday School year being –
Anniversaries – three services on the day and two a couple of weeks later. We practised for weeks beforehand and there was a prize for the first scholar who could recite all the words as no hymn sheets were allowed on the day.
Annual Outings on a Saturday in the summer. Several coachloads would depart for such exotic venues as the Lickey Hills, Stourport etc.
Christmas Party – The older members of the Church would lay on a spread but we all had to take our own plate, dish and spoon. After the feast we had a film show with the likes of Laurel and Hardy etc.
Eisteddfods – These were a circuit type event and covered all sorts of subjects and age ranges. Prizes and certificates were presented to everyone. Mount Zion had always been in the Bloxwich circuit whilst Salem was in the Cannock one.
A couple of years later it was decided Zion was unsafe and that it should close with membership being transferred to the Salem but this did not go down well with some members. A few refused to joiin Salem and went to the other churches instead. We had some excellent leaders and teachers at Zion who were a great influence to me. One I particularly recall was Marjorie Pee and her parents.
Tony Bibb recalls some of his memories of his Wedges Mills childhood.
Every summer Sunday morning the silence of Wedges Mills was broken by several army tanks in convoy from Fallings Park Barracks Wolverhampton travelling through for a days training on Cannock Chase and then a return trip late afternoon. The sound of the tracks grinding on the tarmac road surface and the roar of the diesel engines could be heard approaching half a mile away and many a Sunday morning lie in was thwarted in those days. A relative of mine Len Belcher one of three brothers born in Wedges Mills who passed away two years ago was a member of The Magic Circle and used to give occassional concerts of magic to local children held in a small upstairs room at The Star & Garter Pub all in aid of the Village Hall funds. Len had two brothers one of whom Ronald was a teacher and flautist in the Midland Symphony Orchestra which featured in many BBC Radio broadcasts of that time. In his second marriage Ron moved to Torquay in retirement where he died some years ago. The third brother Clifford emigrated to Australia mid 50s but the family did not prosper there and returned to the UK bit not to Wedges Mills. Amazingly in the 80s an Aunt of mine was visiting her daughter near Portsmouth and was having coffee when she recognised another customer as Clifford’s wife who had her daughter with her. Clifford had passed away and his wife and daughter stayed on in the Portsmouth area.
In the 50s the licensee of the Star & Garter was the well known professional local boxer Albert Dando who kept the pub with his wife Annie and sons Albert and Colin. The two brothers were well known for their annual appearance at Wedges Mills Carnival Fancy Dress Parade and appearing in various guises each year including twin babies dressed in nappies and baby hats and holding baby rattles and one pushing the other in a pushchair. They also appeared one year as Hawaiian dancers dressed in authentic costume (grass skirts) and exhorbitant amounts of make up. Needless to say they featured strongly in and won the competition several times. The relevance of Albert jnrs appearance in these costumes considering that he was a large built man had to be seen on the day to be believed. They were two wonderful sports and went to great lengths to dress for the event. One of the joys for youngsters was trying to imagine what costume the brothers would adopt at that years Carnival. Of course village spirit was so alive in those days – long since sadly missing in this day and age. The family split in the late 50s – younger brother Colin emigrated to Australia when in his mid twenties and subsequently lost his life a few years later in a drowning accident there. Albert Senior left the family acrimoniously and for some years Annie retained licenseeship at the Star & Garter aided by eldest son Albert. Trouble at the Star & Garter was unheard of as Alberts boxing prowess went before him. The last time I saw Annie and Albert was in the mid 50s when they kept the succesful Off Licence (Dandos) in Longford Road Cannock. At that time Annie found out that I had a decent soprano voice and for a while voice trained me at her home. Albert Senior had left the area and no one knew his whereabouts but on a late evening in 1963 after completing my afternoon tour of duty in the Police I caught a bus in Stafford Market Place and on board to my surprise was a recognisable Albert Dando Snr. He left the bus at Queensville Stafford and I saw him enter a small hotel where I assumed he had taken up residence. I never saw him again after that night and he never returned to Wedges Mills.
The Village Fete was a magic time for youngsters in the Village with Sports, Raffles, Parades etc all to finance a Village Hall which eventually was achieved on the site of the current building. I recall my mother had a friend at Hednesford who was a master cake maker and one year she designed a cake shaped and decorated like a Village Hall which subseqently raised much cash in a raffle. I remember ex Bridgtown (Watling Street) Derek Partington and his wife Dorothy used to organise a football match on the fete day between the men and women of the Village and many local ladies turned out for these annual affairs . Derek and Dorothy emigrated to Brisbane Australia in the 60s, Dorothy passing away some years ago and Derek likewise in the past 18 months. Whilst in the Village Derek had a Painting and Decorating shop in what was previously the Croft Private School in High Green Cannock and was a fervent fitness fanatic running the lanes and pressure skipping for long periods. They had a daughter Sylvia whom I am told still visits Cannock on trips from Brisbane.
Many happy hours were spent in the bluebell Wood between the Village and Lodge Farm. One shouldn’t have been there of course but sharp eyes kept look out for the approach of Oscar Lewis the then occupant and owner of the wood residing at Lodge Farm. The aroma of the bluebells and later in the year the strongly pungent onion plants remain in my memory to this day,
Memories of Cross Street by Robert Cartwright
dated 14th March 2010
Numbers 3 and 5 Cross Street were a pair of houses approached through a single entry and is exactly the same today. No 3 was occupied by the Bowring family. There was Mr and Mrs Bowring and two children Pat and ‘Sony’ (Alfred). My eldest sister Rosemary was quite friendly with Pat and Sony and they would often join Mike Hart, Roger Wollaston and me in play. No 5 was occupied by the Chetter family – real characters. Mr and Mrs Chetter and son Archie. Mr Chetter had an infectiously loud laugh and I’m sure you could hear him in our street when he was in the Bricklayers having his pint or two. Mrs Chetter was a quieter person and my mother’s best neighbour. They would meet up every day for ‘elevenses’ alternating between the two houses. Unfortunately Archie had both mental and physical disabilities but they never held him back. He did all sorts of odd jobs in the village – delivering coal being his speciality. His greatest claim to fame was however as the local village runner for the bookies. The locals would take their bets to him each morning and I have to confess my mom and dad were culprits but it didn’t do us any harm. He would then get on his bike, which was a precarious operation in itself, and transport them to a house down the bottom end of Station Street. What happened after that I don’t know. As an aside, many years later a certain Tony Cartwright wanted to put a bet on the Grand National and went to the said house in Station Street but the previous owners had left and Tony didn’t get too friendly a welcome!
Numbers 7 and 9 Cross Street which were separate houses then but now merged into one. Mr & Mrs Bullivants lived at No 7 with their son Albert and the property was the village barbers shop with the entrance at the side. It would be open in the evenings and at weekends and was quite popular. I remember going in as a kid and Albert asking the menfolk if ‘they wanted anything for the weekend’. I hadn’t a clue what he was on about at the time but many men took up the offer. When I was studying in later years in our front room, men would often walk in to have their hair cut and I’d have to direct them next door. I seem to remember one tragic event when a customer actually died in the chair and it affected Albert greatly. Albert himself died tragically some years later in a fatal road accident in Low Street.
No 9 was our family home with the occupants Raymond and Alice Cartwright and seven children – Frank, Rosemary, Sheila, Robert, Margaret, Beryl and Geoffrey. My parents moved there before the war when the front room was a shop, but this was closed during the war. The house itself consisted of a front room which retained the shop features until my early teens when it was converted to a living room. We used to have great fun as kids playing at shops with the real thing – counters, shelves, scales etc. The living room had a black lead grate and stove with a dining table, chairs and a piano. It had a quarry tiled floor which I remember painting with red paint and my mother would make rugs from sacks and scraps of material. The fire was lit daily and was the sole supply of heat to the house and toast done on the fire was brilliant. There was a cellar between the two rooms where food was stored and the staircase led out of the living room. The kitchen and scullery was quite a large room with a stone sink, a gas cooker and a smaller worktable. There was a built-in washer/boiler in one corner under which you had to light a fire and an old fashioned mangle. The iron was heated on the fire in the living room. Outside behind the kitchen was a large coalhouse and the toilet. There was no lighting in there so it was a bit ‘hit and miss’ in the dark. Often in the winter the pipes would freeze and burst and the supply would be shut off so you would have to take a bucket of water to flush the toilet. No such luxury as wash basins. There were four bedrooms upstairs. The front one was a large room and used by the four girls and the other three led off each other. The first room was used by mother and father and it had a storeroom where I recall dad keeping all his music there. The next room was the boys room and also a large one as it extended over both our kitchen and the kitchen at No 7. The back room over the coalhouse was used as a storeroom. There was no bathroom – ‘gazunders’ being the order of the night and electric lighting only extended to the first two rooms. There were fireplaces in the three main bedrooms but these were only ever used when someone was ill in bed. Outside there was a large garden, where we grew vegetables, and there was a pigsty, which I cannot remember being used, and a fowlpen where we kept the chickens. We left the property around 1970 but Sheila and her husband continued to live there for some years afterwards. The combined property of 7 & 9 came up for sale a few years back and I was tempted to go back for a look around but I resisted the temptation.
‘Things Aint What They Used To Be!’Â byÂ Peter Cadman Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
There are things I remember about life in the village which have now been confined to the past. They are not seen or heard anymore and exist only in our memories andÂ one of my earliest memories as a young lad was of the sounds of the siren being tested.Â It was situated at the side of Salem Chapel.Â It did cause a problem as it interfered with the parking there and eventually, with thinking that it would, hopefully, never be needed again, it was removed.Â Before that, though it was tested regularly and I remember the wailing sound well and the continuous note of the â€œAll Clear!â€ at the end. Â Ironically, the young man testing the siren all those years ago,Â Ron Mayou, later became my father-in-law!
Today, the days of the week donâ€™t really seem to have any particular routine to them but when I was growing up, you knew what day of the week it was by what was happening around you – it never altered.Â Monday was a very significant part of the week – it was Washday!Â It would begin with my nan,Â Ethel Horton, coming down the village from The Lot, where she lived, to our house inÂ Station Street. Both she and my mother would then do up their hair in turbans, tied with a bow at the front, in the manner of war-time factory girls, as my mother had once been, in the munitions factory in West Bromwich. My mother had a top-loading washing machine and once the laundry was washed, it would be put through the mangle and if it was a dry day, hung out on the line which would stretch the length of the garden.Â If it was a rainy Monday, the wet washing would be draped over a clothes horse and put in front of the coal fire in the living room.Â The room would be full of the smell of wet washing and be completely steamed up. Â Even now that smell is synonymous with Mondays to me!
Monday was washday for most people on the village.Â Â Annie Wesley,Â Joe â€œBadgerâ€ Wesleysâ€™mother who lived next door to us, could be heard plunging her dolly peg into the tub and then pouring the water down the drain. Â She would get the yard brush and sweep away the suds, cleaning the yard at the same time.
When the houses were built inÂ Glenthorne DriveÂ in the mid 60s, a Launderette was opened.Â It proved very popular and when we moved toÂ Short Lane, I remember seeing lots of people using it. Â Iâ€™m sure most people on the village have automatic washing machines now and use them on all days of the week, not just Mondays!
I must admit, I havenâ€™t been on a bus for a number of years, but in the 50s if you went outside the village it tended to be either by ‘Shankâ€™s Pony’ or the number 17 Bus!Â Very different from todayâ€™s buses. You would swing onto it via the pole at the open entrance at the back. Â The conductor would pull the cable to tell the driver to go and you would scramble upstairs. Â Here you would be met with a smog of cigarette smoke from those puffing away on the top deck!Â The only thing forbidden on the bus in those days was spitting as the sign told.Â The conductor followed you up and issued you a stumpy ticket to your destination.Â Different to nowadays where ‘No Smoking’ has replaced ‘No Spitting’ and the driver is also the conductor, issuing you a ticket as you alight!
That most people walked everywhere is reflected in the fact that the 1950s traffic was very sparse.Tim PerksÂ and myself would play a game involving sitting on the kerb towards the top ofÂ Coppice Lane, outside the house of Mr and Mrs Horton and their daughter, Mary.Â We chose this place as we couldnâ€™t see what was coming up or downÂ Station StreetÂ orÂ Coppice Lane. Â We would challenge each other to guess what would be the next vehicle to appear inÂ Coppice Lane. Â Would it be a car, a lorry, a bus or a bike?Â Sometimes weâ€™d have to wait 15 / 20 minutes before anything appeared!Â Donâ€™t think youâ€™d wait that long today!Â Of courseÂ Coppice Lane, as most of the roads in Cheslyn Hay are, is one way now – reflecting the volume of todayâ€™s traffic.
After choir practice at St Markâ€™s on Fridays, we would always call for sixpenneth of chips and batter bits atÂ George Luntâ€™sÂ chip shop. Â These would come wrapped in yesterdayâ€™s newspaper.Â The other chip shop I remember wasÂ Hilda Hickenâ€™s.Â Â I know she had a son called Michael who was just a few years older than me.Â I donâ€™t know if there were any more on the village – perhaps readers can remember others?Â But it reflects our multicultural society that chip shops have now been overtaken by Indian and Chinese takeaways.Â Unheard of, unfortunately, when I was a young boy in the 50s otherwise Iâ€™m sure weâ€™d have enjoyed onion barjees on the way home on Friday nights instead!
In Cheslyn Hay in the fifties, many of the men were miners. It would be a common sight to see the NCB lorries dropping off the coal allowance on the path in front of the houses. I remember my UnclePercy Poole, who lived next door to us inÂ Station Street, wheeling the coal round in his barrow to his outhouse where he would place the big lumps, or ‘rakers’ at the front and the small lumps at the back. I think this practice was called ‘cogging’ but Iâ€™m not totally sure – hope someone can put me right.Â Mostly Iâ€™m sure that the only coal in houses on the village now is the coal effect gas fires supplementing the central heating!Â Although my AuntyÂ Jean HemmingsleyÂ still has her coal allowance but it is delivered to her coalhouse in hundredweight sacks now.Â She still sorts it out into ‘rakers’ and small lumps though and makes up her own fire with it at the grand age of mid to late 80s.
The houses in our row inÂ Station Street, numbers 80 – 86, were built without bathrooms.Â We had outside toilets at the bottom of the yard, for the day and ‘guz-unders’ if you were taken short during the night! Â We had to have a wash in the kitchen sink and our baths in a tin bath, which was kept on the wall of the outhouse.Â As a young lad I was always popping next door to my great uncle Percy and great aunt Emma Poole.Â But I was never allowed to go on Friday nights and their door would be locked because it was their daughtersâ€™ Margaret and Maureenâ€™s bath night which they would have in their tin bath in front of the roaring coal fire!
During the mid 50s, a man calledÂ Mr EggertonÂ came and put bathrooms in for a few of us residents inÂ Station Street. Â He did this in the tiny room upstairs. Â There was room for a wash basin and bath but not a toilet so we still had to use the outside lavatory. Â Nowadays houses have full bathrooms, often attached to every bedroom. Â It certainly felt like luxury when we moved toÂ Short LaneÂ and its proper full bathroom upstairs!Â As the words of the Tommy Steele song goes – â€œOnce our beer was frothy, now its frothy coffee – things aint what they used to be!”Â Things have changed and moved on, mostly for the better, I suppose, though I canâ€™t say we ever felt deprived!Â
Memories from Olive (nee Whitehouse)
To set the scene, I would like to introduce my family. My Dad, Harry Whitehouse, was the eldest of his family, then came Aunt Elsie who married Jack Stacey. They were quite musical and they used to go round pubs in Walsall playing the accordian and banjo. Next was Aunt Edie and Uncle Bob Titley who always lived with Gran and Grandad Hannah (nee Crutchley) and Thomas Whitehouse of Mount Pleasant. Uncle Bert was the youngest and was married to Aunt Hannah. He was quite different from the others always laughing and joking. Uncle Bob Titley also played the banjo which he eventually gave to my son Allan, which he treasures.
On Mom’s side were Uncle Jack Cooke and Aunt Florence, who lived in Nottingham. Aunt Sarah and Uncle Fred Reynolds will be well remembered, she being the one who kept the family together and made most of the important decisions. A very good hearted person, she reared cousin Doll and also Judah Ball who wasn’t related to us but we believed he was the son of a family who could not afford to keep him so Aunt Sarah took him in. Aunt Lilian, Doll’s mother, came next, but she went to live in Dorking. Mom was next followed by Uncle George, married to Hilda. He was jolly, laughed a lot and teased unmercifully. He left the pits and went to work in the newly opened Austin works in Birmingham where they got on very well. My favourite was Uncle Job, married to May – a very kind, gentle and softly spoken man with a great sense of humour. Aunt Gladys came after Job and there was then Ruth whom we all loved dearly. In all, Gran and Grandad Cooke had thirteen children but some died young.
Christmas was always a very happy time. For weeks beforehand we used to be given the job of peeling what seemed to be hundreds of shallots for pickling. It was a horror of a job. We would sit all night with our eyes streaming, occasionally staring into the hot fire to dry them out ready to start again! Mom would then begin to make the mincemeat and mix the Christmas puddings. We had to help grate the suet and apples and to stone the raisins as they did not come ready stoned in those days. The fruit would then go through the mincer – life was never dull as there was always a job to do! When the mixture was ready to go into the basins everyone had to have a stir and make a wish. Mom used to make at least six big puddings to eat throughout the year. There was great excitement to see if your portion contained a silver threepenny bit!
Then there were the decorations to be made. We would cut up sheets of tissue paper, mix flour and water paste, and make long chains to decorate the rooms. The tree itself was decorated on Christmas Eve. Then we would go to bed early with a stocking to hang up and every year we had the same things in it – an apple, an orange, some nuts, a handkerchief, bar of chocolate, and other small gifts. Always for Christmas breakfast there was a large pork pie and for a special treat Dad would put a teaspoonful of whisky, which I detested, in our tea. This ruined it for me.
After eating our Christmas dinner, we would go and see Gran and Grandad Whitehouse down the village. Aunt Edie, Uncle Bob, cousins Cliff and Ethel lived with them. Sometimes Dad’s other sister, Elsie, and her family would join us so the house would be full. Uncle Bob had a wind-up gramophone with a big green horn. No one else we knew had a gramophone so we loved listening to records and also playing card games. Boxing Day and New Year’s Day were spent visiting or entertaining our Cooke relatives when plenty of homemade wine was consumed.
There was one memorable Christmas when Aunt Sally, Uncle Fred Reynolds , Mom and Dad, with Ron and John went to spend Christmas with Aunt Gladys in Worcester. Ruth and Doll Cooke came to stay with us and we had a great time. In the afternoon we played Blind Man’s Buff and Ruth trying not to get caught, stood on the sofa and put her backside through the window. It was snowing at the time, so what were we to do about this broken window? Bill Whitehouse had the idea of pasting sheets of newspaper over it, but Mom and Dad were none too pleased when they came home the next day. The first thing they saw was the broken window. We had also broken the gas mantle and the only lights we had were candles. They never went away and left us on our own again at Christmas but we had really enjoyed it.
A Walk down memory Lane By Kath Reeves, nee Brough
After visiting the local History Society at the village hall in Pinfold Lane, Cheslyn Hay, I decided to walk down the High Street as I was slowly walking, along came memories of my childhood, when I lived in the High Street came flooding into my mind. Once again as I was looking around I remember Mrs. Hicken she had a chip shop, she would serve me and my friends she would give me & my friends a small paper bag. Inside it were a few chips and sometimes a tiny piece of fish in batter she only charged us a penny each.
Below the chip shop were little cottages. My Aunty Alice and her husband lived in one of them next door to them in the last cottage lived Mr and Mrs Baker. Mrs. Baker on the same side as the fish shop. Mr and Mrs Bakers cottage was on the High Street Mrs Baker was a very deaf lady but she would come over the road and knock on my families back door. We lived at the back of the Chemist she would ask me if I would go shopping for her. I went into different small shops in the High Street then gave her the basket with as much food she was able to receive with her food coupons.
Mr Ferraday worked in the Chemist he used to take peoples dogs If they were very poorly dogs he would walk the dogs up the entry at the side of the chemist, then he would knock on our back door like lots of other people he would ask my Dad Tom Brough to help him. When the poor little dogs were dead my Dad would bury them in our back garden I used to think of the poor little dogs all the time, because each time they had been put to rest our garden over the years would be filled with all kinds of poppies. Also at the top of our chimney purple wild flowers were growing my young brother Tom Brough two years younger than me would say to me look up to the chimney Kath and see the flowers swaying around.
Before our family lived at 32 High Street we lived in Low Street as I walked down Cross Street to enter into Low Street my mind filled once again in my childhood years. Memories started flowing around I pictured my little cottage home, number 42 Low Street where me and my brother Tom were born our Mother Mary Ann Brough nee Wedge was a wonderful mother. As I looked along the Low Street I was once more playing with my two friends Viviane Davies and Christine Wilcox also lots of other girls and boys in the same street.
Christine also Viviane and me were the same ages about seven or eight years old when we were children one morning in the winter time, The three of us were going to school in Pinfold Lane the three of us walked together from our homes. The rain was pouring down we did not have an umbrella we all rushed along the High Street on the left hand side until we came to the big houses at the top of that street. There was a big long entry in between two of the houses it also had a small roof. The three of us ran along the entry we were stamping our feet because they were cold and our shoes were very wet we were watching the rain flooding the paths and the road when the rain started to get a bit lighter falling down we ran out of the entry to the school..
One day Christine and Viviane along with me and other children went down the Boards it was the fields only a slight distance from our homes in Low Street, I was wearing a long black dress that belonged to my Grandmother Sarah, my Dads Mother. I climbed up a small hill in the fields then sang and danced to entertain every one. There was a horse in the field and some of the boys were running after it they got in trouble with Mrs. Jellyman she was the owner of the horse. She was a busy lady she used to have the horse driving a cart for her she used to sell lots of vegetables and brush sticks she made them herself.
MY CHRISTMAS MEMORY
Many years I have kept in mind this wonderful memory when I was a young child aged ten in 1943. World War Two was heavy and blazing with armed conflict across the world. On some of the street walls in Cheslyn Hay I remember seeing war posters advertising for men and women to join the war. At the bottom of each poster was a message ‘JOIN THE ARMY’,’DIG FOR VICTORY’, ‘KEEP ON SAVING’, ‘SALUTE THE SOLDIER’,’BUY VICTORY BONDS’ and a poster showing a pretty lady with ‘JOIN THE WOMENS LAND ARMY’ underneath.
Mum and Dad read magazines known as ‘WOMAN’ and ‘WOMANS OWN’ priced 3d as well as a small booklet ‘LILLIPUT’ costing 6d and 9d with flying aeroplanes on the cover. Dad played records like ‘THEY CANT BLACK OUT THE MOON’ by Ambrose and his Orchestra and ‘MEET ME IN THE BLACKOUT SWEETHEART’ sung by Max Miller.
It was nearly Christmas and the weather was very cold and frosty. One morning I went to the Pinfold Lane School and all the shops in the High Street had decorated their windows. The people who worked in the shops had made the paper streamers of all different colours and draped them across the windows from top to bottom together with strips of glttering tinsel.
As I passed each shop the atmosphere felt mystic and I sang Christmas carols as I walked to the top of the High Street. On the left hand side was Hassalls, who sold toys and I stopped outside to look in at the window. I pressed my face against the glass and at the back of the window I saw a toy that melted mt heart. It was a black doll in a black and green little boy’s suit with a matching hat made from soft material and his face looked so kindly at me that I stood staring at him until my feet were frozen.
All through the school lessons I kept thinking about this little black doll and after school I ran down the High Street up through the entry into my home and Mum said to me ‘You look excited Kathy. What has happened?’
I told her about the doll in Hassall’s shop and I pleaded for it with my Mum for my Christmas present.
The next day and every day getting closer to Christmas I would look in the shop window at that doll until it was Christmas Eve morning. The school was closed now and I was running errands for my Mum. I had money and grocery coupons for Mr Perks shop and bread coupons for Stantons cake shop , but when I had finished the shopping I ran up to Hassalls to take a look at the black doll. There was no sign of it. I went into the shop and asked the lady where it was. ‘I’ve sold it Kathy’ she said and I felt drained and I cried all the way home.
Then on Christmas morning I got out of bed thinking ‘I don’t even want any presents’ and slowly went downstairs into the kitchen. Mum said ‘Happy Christmas and here’s a present for you’.
It was wrapped in brown paper which I carefully prised open. There looking up at me was the little black doll’s china face. I shouted a loud ‘Thank You’ to Mum who told me that I had to give him a name.
I sat on a chair by the table cuddling my doll when a warm memory came into my mind. I used to enjoy picking blackberries in the fields during the summer and one boy in particular always helped me. I looked at Mum and said ‘I’ll call my little black doll Lenny’
A Walk down memory Lane By Kath Reeves, nee Brough