Camp Hill had a lotta bottle

milkman2The picture shows an old milk float drawn by a horse standing on the Holyhead Road at the junction of Russell Street and Camp Hill Lane taken in 1953.

Most of the buildings, pictured were replaced by a tower block.  Camp Hill Lane itself (in 1988 at least), then lead to the Union Centre. Which is now also gone.

This picture was Mr. L. A. Davies all those years ago. In a newspaper published 1988 he said:

“The picture was part of a ‘project’ by the Wednesbury Photographic Society.  The Society was taking photographs in the same places as Doctor Dingley had in 1885 through to 1910”. 

(The Doctors most famous photograph was of ‘Pit Shaft Wenches’)

Mr. Davies’ pictures were originally on glass plates and slides, all of which are now obsolete.  He could not afford to have them all transferred and hadn’t got room to keep them so he kindly donated them to Wednesbury Library. He said that the building behind the milk float was originally used as Ministry of Fuel Office but the rest had remained although unchanged since Dr. Dingleys photograph.

The milk flout is said to be a Midland Dairy float which later becam Unigate.

The depot was on the Wolverhampton Road in Walsall and there were around six floats in use that year before being phased out during 1953/54 to be replaced by electric ones. Two other areas served by horse drawn floats at the time were the Myvod Road/Park Lane area and the Hawthorn Road area.

One person mentioned his/her fondest memory of Russell Street. In 1932/37 when attending the old St. John’s school. Opposite was the Clancy Pawnbrokers. Every Monday the women could be seen queueing to pawn clothing for enough money to last until Friday.  It was redeemed Saturday and pawned again the following Monday.

“On the corner stood Robert’s Newsagents and sweet shop.  For 1/2d (about a quarter of the present 1p) we bought a bag of sweets.  Only the rich kids every had 1/2d on a week day”


Did you know that Holyhead Road was built in 1826 and at one point there used to be a stream running down Camp Hill Lane to the river Tame at The Blocks?

The stream came from Campfield Well which was on the corner of Camp Street and Campfield Lane (which is now Camp Hill Lane).  Campfield stretched away to join Wednesbury Old Field.


There a game was played called Campball or Savage Camp.  This was a “modified” game of football with the goals just 10/12 yards apart.


The water supplied the tannery in the 18th century and superstition has it that the area was haunted by a water-carrier who was unhappy as he was denied eternal rest. This was because he sold water on a Sunday when he was alive!

The ghost was seldom seen but the rattlings of pails and yoke chaining was heard, particularly in a thunder storm during the midnight hours.

“Happy hunting”.


Dr Plot

Dr Plot’s Natural History of Staffordshire 1686

“There are remarkable things in this place (Wednesbury)

Dr Robert Plot: (13 December 1640 – April 30, 1696) was an English naturalist, first Professor of Chemistry at the University of Oxford, and the first keeper of the Ashmolean Museum.
Born in Borden, Kent, he was educated and subsequently taught at Magdalen Hall, Oxford before moving to University College in 1676.
Plot is known for looking for natural curiosities in several English counties, and for writing Natural History of Oxfordshire in which he described the fossilised femur of a giant man. “Now known to be from the dinosaur Megalosaurus”
Also in this book he describes a ‘double sunset’ visible on Midsummer’s Day, from the churchyard of Leek’s Parish Church, St.Edward the Confessor.

And so, it was for the first time ever, Wednesbury was mentioned in a history book:Dr Plot’s ‘Natural history of Staffordshire’ 1686.
“There are remarkable things in this place (Wednesbury)
 There is a very distinct echo around when the Windmill windows stand open towards the church, otherwise there is none at all. Two of the three windmills there answering the five bells (Of the Church) orderly and distinctly.

And another time, while writing about celestial objects, he again mentions Wednesbury.
“A meteor of a globular form was seen Nov 22nd 1672, about twelve or one at night, not in motion, but stationary, against the west door of Wednesbury Church.
This was seen by Mr Millar, vicar there, and two others in his company, which shone so bright that it gave light, though a very dark night. The light spread for half a mile distance, were it continued for about the one-eighth of an hours space, and then of a sudden, it disappeared. Whereupon there immediately followed a great storm of hail and rain.”

And yet again while discussing strange plants.

“Of all the accidents that can befall the trunks of Trees, there is none more un-accountable than their being found in divers country buried underground
They are found in Rotten Meadow, under Wednesbury Hall and also near Wrottesley, etc”

(He is talking of growing trunks, trees that live and grow beneath the ground?)
On another subject of birds, again Wednesbury comes to mind.

“Of unusual small birds I would add the Fringilla Montana (Mountain Chaffinch) of the short, beaked kind, found plentifully about Venice, but very rarely in England.
This bird I have (as evidence?) was killed and given to me by the ingenious Mr Millar, Vicar of Wednesbury, near the Vicarage House.”

The light spread for half a mile distance, were it continued for about the one-eighth of an hours space, and then of a sudden, it disappeared.

In writing of the eggs of birds, Dr Plot states.

“Herein I also met with the divers abnormalities of Nature.
The ingenious Mr Millar, Vicar of Wednesbury, amongst his tithe-eggs, met with one whose yolk was perfectly white as that we usually call so, the separation between them remaining as distinct as in ordinary eggs.”

He did also write about normal things:
“Broadwaters were stocked with the first fish by Mr Lane of Bentley”

But his fascination with Wednesbury goes on.

“We need go no further for an instance of unknown noises than this town of Wednesbury, where colliers will tell you that, early in the morning, as they go to their work, they sometimes hear the noise of a pack of hounds in the air. And coming from the cole-pit itself.
Which has happened so frequently, that they have a name for them, ‘Gabriele’s Hounds’.
“Though the more sober and judicious, take them only to be wild geese, making their noise in flight, which perhaps, maybe probable enough.”

They have a name for them, they call them ‘Gabriele’s Hounds’

I actually had to check this out for myself, by first listening to the sound of wild Geese taking flight, and yes… there was a distinct ‘bark’ to their sound.
Then I listened to the sounds of Hounds, wolfs, Fox’s even. And did those hounds sound like the flight of Wild Geese?

He also describes “A sort of mud at Bescot which shone like fire when stirred up.”
He relates how Captain Lane and a friend had the misfortune to fall into Bescot ditch one night, and how this peculiar mud “Fouled their gloves, bridles, and horses.”
They then observed that on all these items, there was a faint flame .. like that of burnt brandy, which continued on them for some miles of their ride.

F.W Hackwood tried to explain this by writing:  “If this matter has any foundation on fact, there seem but two theories to propound in explanation of it.
This remarkable mud of Bescot might have been shale impregnated with petroleum from the adjacent coal measures, in which case it must first have been ignited to give forth a flame.
But more probably the vegetable sediment at the bottom of the ditch was permeated with a kind of phosphorescent fungi which would produce the effect described by the learned doctor”.

But no matter what the explanation may (Or may not be) be for the strange Bescot mud.
What about that strange echo that can only be felt when the windmill windows are open towards the church.
Or the meteor that is said to have hung around in the porch of the church, bringing with it a great storm of hail.
The birds that didn’t belong in England, let alone Wednesbury.
The strange eggs with a pure white fully formed yoke.
The tree trunks that were found under Wednesbury Hall.
The hounds that greeted the miners from the depths of the pit?

A very distinct echo – A stationary meteor – Trees buried underground- Mountain Chaffinch – Strange eggs – Mud that shone like fire – Gabriele’s Hounds – Windmills repeating the Church Bells – Mr Lane and his fish 🙂

All these strange things in one little Village from 1686 onwards, very  odd.
There seems have been some very strange things going on in Wednesbury, don’t you think?

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Wednesbury superstitions.

The Wednesbury Comberfords had a family superstition that if three knocks were heard it was a death-warning.This soon became a Wednesbury superstition.

Another superstition was that of the Wednesbury colliers, who at certain times professed to hear at the “cole-pits” a noise in the air like that of a pack of hounds, which they called “Gabriel’s Hounds.

This superstition was to be worked up into a novel by that eminent novelist, Mrs. Henry Wood – who, by the way, is related by marriage to the Mills’ family, of Darlaston.

In the year 1667 a strange superstition was confessed to by “William Hopkins, of Wedgebury.” he said he had “Pythagoras’ Wheel” (whatever instrument of divination that may have been) “and could tell when an untruth was spoken.

Wednesbury miners would not work on Good Friday, or Old Christmas day, under any circumstances.

And after a fatal accident in a pit, till the dead man was buried nothing could tempt the survivors to work in the mine.

If the smoke incrusts the bars of the grate, and then gets loosened and hangs in a flake, it is said that a stranger will come.

As long as the flake does not blow into the fire, it is usual to clap hands near to it to create a wind, saying at each clap “Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday etc.

On the day that the flake flies off, that is the day the stranger will come.

If a knife falls off the table, a male visitor may be expected and if a fork falls it we be a woman visitor.

It is unlucky to turn a chair all the way round on one leg.

It is a sign of a quarrel if two knives get crossed on the dinner table.

If a dog howls in front of a house, it is a sign of death in the family.

And if a person gives a sudden shiver, somebody is walking over the person’s future grave.

If the ear tingles, it is caused by some person not present speaking about you.

The nature of the remarks, being denoted by which ear was tingling. In the right bad or left ear good.

The proverb “Helping to salt, helping to sorrow” may be traced to the emblematical use of salt for sorrow, as the “sowing with salt” mentioned in the Bible.

The Wednesbury housewife is careful to mix her pudding with a spoon, because:

“..Mix with a knife,
Stir up strife.”

A belief in dreams had a firm hold upon Wednesbury people at one time.

But if a dream was “made out” nothing disastrous would ensue.

For instance, if the subject of the dream was supposed to be dead or ill, or in danger in some way, and the dreamer immediately after, or within a few days, saw or heard from the person affected by the foreboding. The dream was then made out.

In fact, if it was a “bad dream” great anxiety would be manifested to “make it out” by going out of their way to see this person.