Hartshorne .. I wonder of we are related?

Did you ever want to know everything there was to know about Hartshorne the haulage contractor, of 20 Old Park Road, Wednesbury? …………….Yes?rail hartshorne

The business survived as ‘Hartshorne Motor Services in Bentley Mill Close, Walsall.

How it all began:

Alfred Hartshorne’s father E. Hartshorne set up a haulage business at Bull Street, Darlaston, sometime in the early 20th century, most probably using army-surplus lorries from the First World War.
Alfred worked in the business with his father and sister Zilla until there was a family disagreement in 1929.
No one knows the story behind the falling-out but the upshot was that Alfred left the family firm to start his own haulage business at a yard at the corner of Old Park Road and Birmingham Street in Wednesbury.
Through the 1930s Alfred built up a steady business as a general haulage contractor and during the Second World War, like many haulage firms, he was placed under the control of the Ministry of War Transport.

In 1949 the government nationalised the road haulage business and although compensated, Alfred effectively lost his business.
Prior to this two of his most important customers had been F.H. Lloyd, then one of the biggest steel founders in Europe, and Wilkins and Mitchell, makers of Servis washing machines.
For F.H. Lloyd, Alfred Hartshorne used to transport the high quality silica sand used in casting from pits at Leighton Buzzard and Congleton.
To carry on in business Alfred effectively set himself up as a sand merchant, with five or six heavy trucks, buying up the sand at source and transporting and selling it to F.H. Lloyd.
He also operated a fleet of specially built lorries for Wilkins and Mitchell that could carry around 100 machines at a time.
These were designed so that their washing machines could roll from the production line directly onto the transports without the need for expensive protective packaging.

Bryan Mason (Who gave most of this information) first met Alfred Hartshorne in 1949. At that time he was articled to a firm of accountants in Walsall and he was assigned to look after the Hartshorne books.
They developed a close working relationship, with Bryan cycling to Alfred’s home at Rawnsley near Cannock. Even while on National Service, Bryan still found time to look after the Hartshorne accounts.
When Bryan married, Alfred would visit every week for dinner and would be put out if he did not get his favourite home-cooked fish and chips.

Through the 1950s and early ’60s A. T. Hartshorne grew into a very profitable business.
In the mid 1960s the company’s workshops were compulsorily purchased by Darlaston UDC.
In return the council sold a plot of land at Bentley Mill Close and there Alfred built new workshops and offices, which opened in 1966.
Twelve months later Alfred decided to retire and he sold his fleet of vehicles to F.H. Lloyd and Wilkins and Mitchell.
However, Alfred still had his new workshops and offices at Bentley Mill Close, ideally situated close to the M6 and the perfect place to set up a commercial vehicle service and repair business. So in October 1968 Hartshorne Motor Services was established.
Alfred, though retired, was chairman with Stan Bachelor as managing director and Bryan Mason as director and company secretary.

Bryan remembers well the visits by Alfred Hartshorne to the workshops at Bentley Mill Close.
“He would come in every Friday,” said Bryan, “he’d usually cadge a cigarette in the workshops and then he would go to lunch with Stan and I. We discussed more business and got more done at those lunches than we would ever have in an ordinary business meeting.
He had a £5 bet with Stan that the business would never reach a turnover of £1million; today it’s £70million.”

Initially HMS was a purely commercial repair business but they soon set up their long-standing association with Volvo.
Volvo trucks were first imported into the UK in 1967 by a Scottish firm, Ailsa Ltd.
This company wanted to set up a servicing network across the country so in 1969 HMS became a service and parts dealer for Volvo, and in 1971 it became a full Volvo distributor.


When they celebrated their 40 years in business, they employed just under 500 people across the Midlands at centres at Walsall, Pensnett, Birmingham, Burton-on-Trent, Shrewsbury, Alfreton, Newcastleunder- Lyme, Willenhall, Atherstone, and Stoke-on- Trent.
Some workers had been with the firm for 30 years or more and there were many second and even third generations of the same family employed.

Alfred T. Hartshorne passed away in 1977 and Stan Bachelor died in 1999.
At the last point in all this information, HMS was run by Stan’s son David Bachelor and Bryan’s son Ian Mason.
The business supplied Volvo vehicles and serviced them for a number of major businesses, such as DHL and Travel West Midlands, as well as working with many smaller transport and haulage companies.

“And this is where I falter, as I have no idea if they are still in business today …. Maybe you can enlighten me? …… But here is little more from people that used to work there:

Harry Brierley of Aldridge tells about his time there;
Harry said: “I worked for E. Hartshorne at Bull Street, Darlaston. The firm was run by Alfred Hartshorne’s sister and her husband Jack Beardsmore, who we called Mr B.
Later on the business was run by their daughter Eileen and her husband, New Zealander Rick Deverell. The manager was Tommy Saunders.
“I drove a 4-wheeled ERF, also a Thames Trader, ex-BRS 8-wheeler and a Guy Invincible.
The firm also had a 4-wheeler Jensen. The other drivers there were the Lowe brothers, Harry Grant, Jack Baker, Big George Lakin, and Jimmy Littlehales.
We carried everything, greasy bright steel, British guide rails, and wheat for Walsall flour mills, which we had contract vehicles for.
I left the company in 1959.”

Robert Severn also said;
WITH reference to the photograph of Alfred T. Hartshorne’s lorry, I have some slight knowledge of the Hartshorne family.
In 1923, at the age of 14, my late mother Kathleen Blick, as she was then, worked for the Hartshorne family at a public house they owned in Darlaston.
This was the Springhead Tavern on the Walsall Road just below and on the same side as Gordon Street.
I cannot remember Alfred’s father’s Christian names but I believe his initials were E.T. Hartshorne.
Alfred had a sister called Zilla who married a man called Jack Beardsmore and I believe some sort of partnership existed between Jack Beardsmore and Alfred’s father.
However, at some stage Alfred started his own business, hence his name appears on the lorry in the photograph.

Many years later, the Beardsmore’s lived in a magnificent house in Slaney Road, Pleck, which boasted a music room, morning room etc., and a tennis court in the grounds!
I watched the Queen’s coronation on their television in 1953.

In the 1920’s my mother, as a young girl, worked for Mr and Mrs E.T. Hartshorne as a barmaid at the Spring Head Tavern on Walsall Road, Darlaston.
Mr E.T. Hartshorne also ran a small transport business.
My mother used to recall that in addition to the haulage business Mr Hartshorne used to put seats on the back of his lorry at the weekends and use it as a kind of primitive charabanc to run trips to the local countryside.
The Hartshornes had a son Alfred T. and a daughter Zillah. Father and son ran the transport business together until eventually there was a falling out.
Alfred borrowed money to buy his first lorry and that’s how the Alfred T. Hartshorne company began.

My mother also recalled that in the first few years of Alf’s breakaway things were so desperate for he and his wife that, unknown to their parents, his sister Zillah used to smuggle food out of the pub to feed them.
Eventually, however, Alf’s venture began to prosper and he built up a fleet of modern (for then) well turned out and maintained lorries.

I can remember as a schoolboy at the nearby Kings Hill school in the 1930’s and 40’s A.T. Hartshorne’s depot on the junction of Old Park Road and Birmingham Street, always being a hive of activity.
In the late forties the then Labour government nationalised all transport.
I would imagine that Alfred T’s for certain and possibly the smaller E.T. Hartshorne would have thus been taken out of the private sector.
Much later when road transport was re-privatised I don’t think Alfred T. Hartshorne’s ever re-emerged as a haulage business. E.T. Hartshorne, however, now ran by Zillah’s husband Jack Beardmore (or Beardsmore) and eventually their son-in-law, did.
I know that the business was still running in the fifties and sixties because I rented a lock up garage from them at their depot in Bull Street, Darlaston.

Back to Alfred T. In recent years I have seen adverts and mentions in the business news of an Alfred T. Hartshorne in Bentley Mill Lane between Darlaston and Walsall who I believe are in the business of selling, repairing and maintaining vehicles connected with the heavy haulage trade.
I think they are still there. I don’t think that Alfred and his wife had any children, but to me, it seems likely that this is continuation of the original business name.
About 100 yards along Old Park Road from Hartshorne’s garage there used to be an old chapel facing the top of Franchise Street. Looking at the arched front door in the picture above, and the side extension it looks very much like the chapel I remember as a boy.

(It can be confirmed that the business at Bentley Mill (Hartshorne Motor Services) was founded in 1968 when the premises were acquired from Mr Hartshorne

“And there you have it ….. I know a bit about everything I do! …. And now most of you do too”   Smile


Rides on Railways …. Observing the Wednesbury Savages.

Here is a lovely description of Wednesbury people, by Mr Samuel Sidney as he take’s us on a train journey past Wednesbury & the Black Country…..  around the 1800’s.

What he writes will not surprise most of us by now, we have heard it all before. … Aye we? But those a little newer to THOW and my never ending quest to find ‘anything’ Wednesbury related might take offence at the description of our own. But don’t …. It’s all true! 

Enjoy …. you savages!

Taken from the book ‘RIDES ON RAILWAYS by Samuel Sidney.


The following pages are an attempt to supply something amusing, instructive, and suggestive to travelers who, not caring particularly where they go, or how long they stay at any particular place, may wish to know something of the towns and districts through which they pass, on their way to Wales, the Lakes of Cumberland, or the Highlands of Scotland; or to those who, having a brief vacation, may wish to employ it among pleasant rural scenes, and in investigating the manufactures, the mines, and other sources of the commerce and influence of this small island and great country.

In performing this task, I have relied partly on personal observation, partly on notes and the memory of former journeys; and where needful have used the historical information to be found in cyclopaedia’s, and local guide-books.

This must account for, if it does not excuse, the unequal space devoted to districts with equal claims to attention. But it would take years, if not a lifetime, to render the manuscript of so discursive a work complete and correct.

I feel that I have been guilty of many faults of commission and omission; but if the friends of those localities to which I have not done justice will take the trouble to forward to me any facts or figures of public general interest, they shall be carefully embodied in any future edition, should the book, as I hope it will, arrive at such an honour and profit.


The first diverging railway after leaving Handsworth, on the road to the north, is what, for want of a better name, called the South Staffordshire, which connects Birmingham with Dudley, Walsall, Lichfield, and Tamworth, thus uniting the most purely agricultural with the most thoroughly manufacturing districts, and especially with that part of the great coal-field which is locally known as the “Black Country.”

In this Black Country, including West Bromwich, Wednesbury, Dudley, and Darlaston, Bilston, Wolverhampton, and several minor villages, a perpetual twilight reigns during the day, and during the night fires on all sides light up the dark landscape with a fiery glow.

The pleasant green of pastures is almost unknown, the streams, in which no fishes swim, are black and unwholesome; the natural dead flat is often broken by huge hills of cinders and spoil from the mines; the few trees are stunted and blasted; no birds are to be seen, except a few smoky sparrows; and for miles on miles a black waste spreads around, where furnaces continually smoke, steam-engines thud and hiss, and long chains clank, while blind gin-horses walk their doleful round.

From time to time you pass a cluster of deserted roofless cottages of dingiest brick, half-swallowed up in sinking pits or inclining to every point of the compass, while the timbers point up like the ribs of a half-decayed corpse.

The majority of the natives of this Tartarian region are in full keeping with the scenery—savages, without the grace of savages, coarsely clad in filthy garments, with no change on week-days and Sundays, they converse in a language belarded with fearful and disgusting oaths, which can scarcely be recognized as the same as that of civilized England.

On working days few men are to be seen, they are in the pits or the ironworks, but women are met on the high-road clad in men’s once white linsey-woolsey coats and felt hats, driving and cursing strings of donkeys laden with coals or iron rods for the use of the nailers.

On certain rare holidays these people wash their faces, clothe themselves in decent garments, and, since the opening of the South Staffordshire Railway, take advantage of cheap excursion trains, go down to Birmingham to amuse themselves and make purchases.

“It would be a useful lesson for anyone who is particularly well satisfied with the moral, educational, and religious state of his countrymen, to make a little journey through this Black Country.

He will find that the amiable enthusiasts who meet every May at Exeter Hall to consider on the best means of converting certain aboriginal tribes in Africa, India, and the Islands of the Pacific, need not go so far to find human beings more barbarous and yet much more easily reclaimed.”

The people of this district are engaged in coal-mining, in ironworks, in making nails, and many other articles, or parts of articles, for the Birmingham trade.  Their wages are, for the most part, good; fuel is cheap; well supplied markets, and means of obtaining the best clothing are close at hand.

But, within sixty years a vast dense population has been collected together in districts which were but thinly inhabited as long as the value lay on the surface, instead of in the bowels of the earth.

The people gathered together and found neither churches, nor schools, nor laws, nor customs, nor means for cleanliness at first, nor even an effective police to keep order.

And thus they became one of the most ignorant, brutal, depraved, drunken, unhealthy populations in the kingdom, unless it be a set of people in the same occupations in the neighbourhood of Manchester.

“We shall never forget, some five-and-twenty years ago, passing near Bilston on a summer’s holiday, and seeing a great red, pied bull foaming, and roaring, and marching round a ring in which he was chained, while a crowd of men, each with a demoniacal-looking bulldog in his arms, and a number of ragged women, with their hair about their ears, some of them also carrying bull-dog pups, yelled about the baited bull. It gave us an awful fright, and haunted our childish dreams for years after.”

The first change forced upon the governing classes, by feelings of self- protection was an organized police, and the “Black” people are now more disgusting than dangerous.

The cholera of 1832, which decimated Bilston and Wednesbury, did something toward calling attention to the grievous social and sanitary wants of this district. In that pestilence several clergymen and medical men died, like heroes, in the discharge of their duties.  Some churches were built, some schools established; but an immense work remains to be done. Bull-baiting has been put down, but no rational amusements have been substituted for that brutal and exciting sport.

“In the northern coal fields, near Newcastle-on-Tyne especially, we have noticed that when the miner ascends from the pit in the evening, his first care is to wash himself from head to foot, and then to put on a clean suit of white flannel. As you pass along the one street of a pitman’s village, you will see the father reading a Chambers’ Journal or a cheap religious magazine at the door of his cottage while smoking a pipe, and nursing a child or two on his knee; and through the open door, a neat four-post bed and an oak or mahogany chest of drawers bear witness to his frugality.”

But in Wednesbury, Bilston, and all that district, when work is over you find the men drinking in their dirty clothes and with grimy faces at the beer-shop of the “Buttey,” that is to say, the contractor or middleman under whom they work, according to the system of the country, and the women hanging about the doors of their dingy dwellings, gossiping or quarreling,—the old furies and the young slatterns.

In the face of such savagery, so evidently the result of defective education, two opposite and extreme parties in the State, the anti-church Mialls and the pro-church Anthony Denisons, combine to oppose the multiplication of education that teaches decency if it teaches nothing else.

One great step has been made by the Health of Town’s Act, which is about to be applied to some of these coal towns; and railways have rendered the whole district so accessible that no foul spot can long remain unknown or unnoticed.

WEDNESBURY, pronounced Wedgebury, and spelt Wednesberie in Domesday Book, stands in the very heart of the coal and iron district, and is as like Tipton, Darlaston, Bilston, and other towns where the inhabitants are similarly employed, as one sweep is like another.

Birmingham factors depend largely on Wedgebury for various kinds of ironwork and “heavy steel toys.” The coal pits in the neighbourhood are of great value, and there is no better place in the kingdom to buy a thoroughbred bull dog that will “kill or die on it,” but never turn tail.

The name is supposed to incorporate that of the Saxon god Woden, whose worship consisted in getting drunk and fighting, and, to this day, that is the only kind of relaxation in which many of the inhabitants ever indulge.     :-O

The church stands upon a hill, where Ethelfleda, Lady of Mercia, built a castle to resist the Danes, A.D. 914, about the time that she erected similar bulwarks at Tamworth and other towns in the Midland counties, but there are no antiquities worth the trouble of visiting.

Parties who take an interest in the progress of education in this kingdom among those classes where it is most needed, that is to say, masses of miners and mechanics residing in districts from which all the higher and most of the middle classes have removed; where the clergy are few, hard worked, and ill paid; where the virtues of a thinly peopled agricultural district have been exchanged for the vices, without the refinements, of a crowded town population, should traverse this part of Staffordshire on foot.     (Dare ya!)  🙂

They will own that, in spite of the praiseworthy labours of both Church and Dissent,—in spite of the progress of Temperance Societies and Savings’ Banks,—a crowd of children are daily growing up in a state of ignorance, dirt, and degradation fearful to contemplate.

To active philanthropists, not to seekers of the picturesque, archaeologists, and antiquarians, do we address ourselves. Still we ought to add that, in the iron works and rolling mills, there are studies of half naked men in active motion at night, with effect of red firelight and dark shade, in which the power of painting flesh and muscular development might be more effectively displayed than in the perpetual repetition of model Eves and sprawling nymphs.

He then moves on to our neighbours and it does get worse…. but I will add those at a later date.

But there is some very interesting stuff about the gun trade that I have decided to add also, because after all, we are well known for our gun lock making.  But saying that … It is only really interesting if you are keen on guns, as I always have been & I know a few more people on THOW page are too.

(This is from the same book, which as a whole, is a very interesting read altogether. This book can be found as a free eBook for anyone interested)

The visitor of the Black Country who has the necessary introductions, should by no means omit to visit a gun-barrel factory, as there are a good many picturesque effects in the various processes, beside the mechanical instruction it affords. The following is the order of the fabrication of a common gun:

The sheets for barrels are made from scraps of steel and iron, such as old coach-springs, knives, steel chains, horse shoes and horseshoe nails, and sheets of waste steel from steel pen manufactories.

These, having been sorted, are bound together, and submitted first to such a furnace, and then to such a steam hammer as we described in our visit to Wolverton, until it is shaped into a bar of tough iron, which is afterwards rolled into sheets of the requisite thickness.

From one of these sheets a length sufficient to make a gun barrel is cut off by a pair of steam-moved shears, of which the lower jaw is stationary and the upper weighs a ton, of which plenty of examples may be seen in every steam engine factory.

The slip of iron is made red hot, placed between a pair of rollers, one of which is convex and the other concave, and comes out in a semicircular trough shape; again heated, and again pressed by smaller rollers, by which the cylinder is nearly completed. A long bar of iron is passed through the cylinder, it is thrust into the fire again, and, when red hot, it is submitted to the welder, who hammers it and heats it and hammers it again, until it assumes the form of a perfect tube.

Damascus barrels are made by incorporating alternate layers of red hot steel and iron, which are then twisted into the shape of a screw while at white heat. The bar thus made is twisted in a cold state by steam power round a bar into a barrel shape, then heated and welded together. These are the barrels which present the beautiful variegated appearance which gives them the name of Damascus.

The barrels, whether common or twisted, are then bored by a steel rod, kept wet with water or oil, and turned by steam. The process occupies from two to three hours for each barrel.

The next operation is that of grinding the outside of the barrel with sandstone wheels, from five to six feet in diameter when new, driven by steam. These stones chiefly come from the neighbouring district of Bilston; in four months’ work, a stone of this size will be reduced to two feet.

The employment is hard, dangerous from the stones often breaking while in motion, in which case pieces of stone weighing a ton have been known to fly through the roof of the shop; unwholesome, because the sand and steel dust fill eyes, mouth, and lungs, unless a certain simple precaution is taken which grinders never take.

After grinding, a nut is screwed into the breech, and the barrel is taken to the proof house to be proved. The proof house is a detached building, the interior of which is lined with plates of cast iron.

The barrels are set in two iron stocks, the upper surface of one of which has a small gutter, to contain a train of powder; in this train the barrels rest with their touchholes downwards, and in the rear of the breeches of the barrels is a mass of sand. When the guns, loaded with five times the quantity of powder used in actual service, have been arranged, the iron-lined doors and windows are closed, and a train extending to the outside through a hole is fired.

Some barrels burst and twist into all manner of shapes; those which pass the ordeal are again examined after the lapse of twenty-four hours, and, if approved, marked with two separate marks, one for viewing and one for proving. The mark for proving consists of two sceptres crossed with a crown in the upper angle; the letters B and C in the left and right, and the letter P in the lower angle. For viewing only, V stands instead of P underneath the crown, the other letters omitted. After proving, the jiggerer fastens the pin, which closes up the breech.

In the mean time the construction of the lock, which is an entirely different business, and carried on in the neighbouring towns of Wednesbury, Darleston, and Wolverhampton, as well as in Birmingham, has been going on.

The gun lock makers are ranged into two great divisions of forgers and filers, beside many subdivisions.

The forgers manufacture the pieces in the rough, the filers polish them and put them together. In the percussion lock, there are fifteen pieces; in the common flint lock, eight.

By a process patented about eleven years ago, parts of a gun lock formerly forged by hand are now stamped with a die. The use of this invention was opposed by the men, but without success.

The barrel and lock next pass into the hands of the stocker.

The stocks, of beechwood for common guns, of walnut for superior, of which much is imported from France and Italy, arrive in Birmingham in a rough state. The stocker cuts away enough of the stock to receive the barrel, the lock, the ramrod, and shapes it a little.

The next workman employed is the screw-together. He screws on the heel plate, the guard that protects the trigger, puts in the trigger plate, lets in the pipes to hold the ramrod, puts on the nozzle cap, and all other mountings.

After all this, a finisher takes the gun to pieces, and polishes, fits all the mountings, or sends them to be polished by women; the lock is sent to the engraver to have an elephant and the word “warranted,” if for the African market, put on it; a crown and the words “tower proof,” if for our own military service; while the stock is in the hands of the maker off and cleanser, it is carved, polished, and, if needful, stained.

Common gun barrels are polished or browned to prevent them from rusting, real Damascus barrels are subjected to a chemical process, which brings out the fine wavy lines and prevents them from rusting.

All these operations having been performed, the barrel, the lock, and the stock, are brought back by the respective workmen who have given them the final touch, and put together by the finisher or gun maker, and this putting together is as much as many eminent gunmakers ever do. But, by care and good judgment, they acquire a reputation for which they can charge a handsome percentage.

For these reasons, with local knowledge, it is possible to obtain from a Birmingham finisher who keeps no shop, a first-rate double gun at a very low figure compared with retail prices.

Belgium and Germany compete with Birmingham for cheap African guns, and even forge the proof marks. Neither in quality nor in price for first-rate articles can any country compete with us.

And as they say in them darn cartoons:

“That’s all for now Folks”

Murder in the newspapers 1735 – 1935

No murder is suitable reading –  but some murders I feel maybe really upsetting to some. These are headed in red. These are generally child murders, so please, scroll on past those if they will upset you.

Click on any picture for easy reading.

part 1: Inquest held at the Village pub, Mesty Croft

part 1: Inquest held at the Village pub, Mesty Croft

part 2: Inquest held at the Village pub, Mesty Croft

part 2: Inquest held at the Village pub, Mesty Croft



The Owen Murder part 1

The Owen Murder part 1

The Owen Murder part 2

The Owen Murder part 2

The Owen Murder part 3

The Owen Murder part 3

The Owen Murder part 4

The Owen Murder part 4

Murder of Elizabeth Griffiths part 1

Murder of Elizabeth Griffiths part 1

Murder of Elizabeth Griffiths part 2

Murder of Elizabeth Griffiths part 2

Murder of Elizabeth Griffiths part 3

Murder of Elizabeth Griffiths part 3



A real confession or a crank?

A real confession or a crank?

murder or self harm

The full horrendous story coming soon

The full horrendous story coming soon

Bonk’s n Beer Ballies


There are a lot of things I miss about Wednesbury, and to name just a few:

1, The 12 o’clock queue.
This was Joining the queue at the village pub, for the 12 o’clock opening time, along with my favourite old gents. (Now sadly, most of them are gone)

2, The banter and dry humour of the Wednesbury people.

3, The camaraderie:
Knowing that if you were in trouble, there would always be someone there for you.

4, The Bonk’s:
That drink that you waited patiently while it settled and once it was ready, it took you 2 minutes to see off.

5. And I dow arf miss the beer Ballies!

Those of us that have never strayed too far from Wednesbury and its ways, never really see the beer bally. … I know I didn’t!
It wasn’t until I actually moved away to live ‘up North’, that I noticed them, or I should say the ‘lack’ of them!

I thought every young bloke (before the age of 30) had a beer bally to look forward to; It’s a way of life aye it, or so I thought.
Now I know it isn’t that way everywhere.

We are drinkers in the black country you see.
Okay, not all of us!
There is that small minority of men who dow spend all weekend on the beer. …… But there are more beer ballies here than not, yo have to agree on that?
But why?
Yove gotta wonder about that aye ya?

Back in the day, the pub was the centre of the social life for the people of Wednesbury, and in many cases, the ‘only’ social life many experienced.
Our folk worked hard they did. Because the work around here: ‘WAS HARD’!
And the only way to escape from the hardship was by gooin to the pub. “And we had enuff of them around here, ar con tell ya”!

The ‘hey-day’ of the public house was during the nineteenth and early twentieth century’s.
After slogging it arrt at work all day, yo wanted to relax, and yow cudn’t just turn on the television or goo to the cinema. So What did ya do?
“Yow went To the pub, where you created your own enjoyment”!

In most cases, Saturday nights was concert night: Songs around the piano, jokes and acting out parts from plays that had been on at the theatres of Wednesbury.
And of course yow had them wages to spend and all day Sunday to sleep it off.

But when the men of Wednesbury had been drinking they became rowdy, and it was not an uncommon thing to see a fight.

F. W. Hackwood mentions in one of his writings, about a pub called the Mazepa in Elwell Street.
He said the men of the Mazepa had their own remedy for drunken brawls.
The rest of the men would pick up whoever was fighting, open the windows and throw them out into the River Tame that ran alongside.
No doubt this would cool them off, but during that time a good fight was not looked upon with disgust as it is now, in fact us Black Country folk revelled in them!
It was a great thing of the day to see two men battling it out. And the men who were fighting enjoyed it as much as those who were watching!

In most of our pubs there woz always something gooin on, something that relaxed you after a long week of hard work.
And yow picked yor favourite local from their idea of entertainment.

Most of the pubs at that time had darts and domino teams, and they still do.
But a big interest some years ago was ‘pigeons’.
The Boat Inn at Leabrook was quite famous for its pigeon shoots.
“On the day of the shoot. the pigeons would be put in a box. And when a string was pulled they would be released and as they flew upwards they would be shot.”
But I cor imagine the ‘real’ pigeon lovers gooin for that! … Con yo?

Much more common were the pigeon races. These were organised by pigeon clubs at the pubs.
So it wor an uncommon sight to see that most folks back yards had a coop built.

Some pubs were known for playing Jacks’ in their yard. And they day arf tek it serious!
But that could have something to do with the prize I think?

The Pack Horse was one such well known pub for Jack’s, and the prize for the winning team would be two or three gallons of beer.
(Probably worth about 1/4d, what with a pint being about 1d)
But as is the way with Wednesbury folk, they day tek it um!
Oh no, they alwiz shared the beer with the loosing team.

They were not only used for entertainment of course. Some were Coach houses:
The Hare & Hounds in Bridge St, The Turks head in Lower High St, The Coach & Horses in Bridge St, (now named the Coach Makers Arms .. Pretty bricks)
And The Red Lion in Bridge St being one of the earliest coaching houses with large stables and probably the only Wednesbury pub to ever have featured in an oil painting of repute.
It is seen in the fore ground of the painting by Marshal Claxton showing John Wesley in the hands of a Wednesbury mob 1743. (The picture is in the arts & treasures picture album)

A few of them were also used as courts, were magistrates met to mete out punishment.
One example: “The court case of Joseph Wilkes also took place in the Red Lion, where Wilkes was charged with murder of Johnny Adams, a farmer that lived at the Delves. He was found guilty and hung at Stafford”

You could also pay the Vat bloke … (If you really wanted to) ..one pub being the Borough Arms, Holyhead Rd.

Some pubs were also a holding place for murder victims, (The Cabin being one) the victims were often kept in the cellar were it was cool …. But sadly the cellar was also home to rats … not a nice thought.

So, with all this entertainment gooin on in our locals, yow con see where the beer bally came from cor ya?

God bless the beer bally I say!

And Jim Croton had this to add:

Jim Croton Working in the forges and steel mills of Wednesbury (or anywhere else for that matter) was very hot and hard work. Workers would become dehydrated through their exertions in the fiery heat of the furnaces. So when lunch break came, they would leave en-masse and go to one of the nearby pubs. Every major works was ringed with pubs (think of Portway Road and the surrounds of the Patent Shaft or all of the pubs in Elwell Street and Newtown) and the beer they sold was mild. Mild ale with a typical strength of 3.2 could be downed rapidly and the high sugar content (maltose) meant it was easily absorbed into the body replacing the fluids lost earlier. Try rapidly drinking a pint of mild and then after a suitable break do the same with a pint of water. You will soon realise why it had to be mild ale. Quart glasses were available and were very popular – they still had them in the Great Western when I first went there in the early 1970s. Landlords would often fill many glasses in readiness for the lunchtime rush as most works only allowed half an hour for lunch. Consumption of such beer was so significant that many of the pubs didn’t get their beer delivered in barrels but by tanker and they had large tanks -usually two – one in use and one being cleaned ready for the next delivery. Once the thirsty hoards had returned to work, the clean up followed and then it all happened again as the workers left in the evening. Home for your dinner and then out to the pub for your entertainment.

Moses Haughton the Elder

Sent in by Estelle Mzzposted to

While doing some research at Birmingham I came across a plaque to this guy at St Philips Cathedral and mentioned his interment at St Bartholomew’s Wednesbury, so here’s a good old Wednesbury famous guy who you can visit his grave when you are next at St Bartholomew’s .
Moses Haughton the Elder – engraver/painter and baptised on 27 March in 1735  at St Bartholomew’s .Church.          He trained as an enamel painter and was employed at the workshop of Hyla Holden in Wednesbury, before moving to Birmingham to work for John Baskerville and Henry Clay in 1761. He worked on enamelled, japanned and papier-mâché products.
In 1809, along with Samuel Lines he established a Life Academy in Peck Lane, a street leading out of New Street, close to what was the Free Grammar school (on a site now occupied by New Street Station).
This life school was so successful that in 1814 it was moved to a larger space in Union Passage. In this year it held its first public exhibition.
In 1821 the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists grew from this venture. Along with famous portraits and still life paintings of game, he also illustrated editions of the Bible in the late 18th Century.
Haughton was said to be of a “quiet and retiring disposition” and was not known much outside Birmingham during his lifetime.
He lived for many years at Ashted, outside the city. He died there on 24 December 1804 and was buried at St Bartholomew’s  Church Wednesbury, a marble monument with his portrait, sculpted by Peter Rouw can be seen erected on the wall of St Philip’s Cathedral Birmingham.
His son, Matthew Haughton, was an artist and engraver, and his nephew, Moses Haughton the younger (1773–1849), a painter and engraver.

Poor Law Rates

Years ago now, sometime in the 1960’s, a small book full of figures came to light.
It was the ‘Poor Law Rate Book’ for the year 1835. And it is really interesting.
(Hold on! Don’t go! ….. don’t give up yet, it is not as boring as it sounds …. Honest) This is just a small part of the interesting things I found from such a small book:
As a rate payer, your house or business was recorded, much like it is recorded now.
In 1835, we were pretty much a rural village. Surrounding us were fields, and beyond them a number of small hamlets, Wood Green –  Darlaston –  Cock Heath – Moxley – Hob’s Hole – Sparrow’s Forge and the Delves.
Most of the houses were along Bridge Street, High Street, Trouse Lane and Darlaston Road, with some scattered across the line of Walsall Street, Union Street, High Bullen and Dudley Street.
The rest of the built-up area covered the west side of the hill; Church Street, Church Hill, Hall End, Camp Street, Camp Hill Lane, and Meeting Street.
The east side of the hilI: Pritchard Street, Hollies Drive, etc. had not yet been developed and all this area was still part of Church Field.
Apart from Spring Head and a few more houses in Ridding Lane there was nothing to the south-east of Walsall Street,
There was nothing on Hydes Road and there was no Mesty Croft.
(Some places are still missing though, as there is still no mention of Bedlam, the lunatic asylum that used to be on High Bullen.
(This is just one of the reasons I scour all old publications.. for just one mention of that place.)
Another thing that became evident is: That except for a couple of exceptions, no streets seemed to be classed as ‘better class’ or ‘poorest class’ properties.
(Going by the rate paid)
In every street you would find larger houses, rated at over £5, right next door to hovels rated at less than £1.
The exceptions were Church Hill, where the Rev. Clarkson had just built the new vicarage (rate £15).
In that area, only nine of the forty-eight houses there were rated at less than £2…… Meaning, there were only 9 hovels there.
And at the opposite end of the spectrum was Camp Street, where only three of the forty-five houses were rated at more than £2.
But this little observation then leads to unwritten details about the houses: They were really very closely packed together. To get 45 houses in Camp street?
And look at this;
There were 157 properties in High Street, 152 in Dudley Street, 78 in Trouse Lane and 151 in Darlaston Road!
They could not all have been on the road (as in the word “frontagers ‘) so, many of them must have been in little back courts?
On the other hand there were only 27 houses in Holyhead Road but then that road had only been opened abt 1826.
There were no railways … but the Birmingham Canal Company was rated at £112.
It’s a shame that more detail wasn’t given in the book (compared to the directories) as there are no mention of actual shops.
”There must have been shops! …. Who was the baker?
No mention of public houses. …… No pubs in Wednesbury? …. I don’t believe it!
No mention of butcher shop. …. Where did we get our Sunday joint from?”
I know that all this is common knowledge to us now, because we have the trade directories, but still, if making a careful record of the houses and their rates, why didn’t they do the same with the shops?
But if you read it carefully there are plenty of clues to the shops that ‘were there’.
I know there were pubs because there were nine malt-houses recorded. And that was the days of ‘ home-brew, where each public house brewed its own.
There was a slaughter shop ‘ in High Bullen, so that says there were butcher shops too.
Only one blacksmith’s shop is named though and that was at Moxley.
There were two timber yards, a basin and a ‘stickle.’
What is was a stickle? ….. I don’t know.
Flour was ground daily because Whitmore Jones and Son had a mill down at Wednesbury Bridge. ….
Originally this was water driven, on the site of John Wood’s Forge, but by this date it had been converted to a steam driven mill on the other side of the road.
How do we know that?
Because my dear Watson ….The owner paid his rates and so it was recorded.
It was usual to charge the rate for a business/workshop on the residence of the owner, even if he did not live at the works.
So his house was named as the rate payer of the said property.
James Southwick was still paying rates on the windmill on the top of the hill, though he actually lived in High Street.
John Russell was charged for his forge on Church Hill although he lived at the Turk’s Head where he was Landlord.
It is a shame though, that there were not more details, for example:
There is reference to 14 coal mines, three of them belonging to Sir Horace – St. Paul and five of them the property of of Lloyd Foster and Co., but looking at the book, we would have no idea where they were?
Now here, I’m completely lost: At six of the mines there were whimsevs? used for winding, and these were rated separately. I wonder why?
Steam engines were also liable to separate assessment and rated accordingly …. But there are no clues there for me I’m afraid, Dear Watson.
There were seven furnaces, five at Lloyd Foster and Co. and two belonging to Wm. Kettle at Monway Field.
In addition to James Russell’s tube factory on High Bullen, Elwell’s edge tool factory at Wednesbury Forge, Adams and Richards’ iron works on Bridge Street, there was one foundry and five forges.
A quick look at who did live in Wednesbury in 1835:
There was Edward Elwell living at the Forge.
John Pittaway, a bailiff, who lived in a small house in Trouse Lane.
In the High Street beside James Southwick and John Russell, there was the name of Joseph Thursfield.
(He could be related or maybe the founder of the family of solicitors of that name in Wednesbury?)
John Crowther, member of another family of solicitors, lived in Walsall Road and owned Oakeswell Hall.
Cornelius Whitehouse, the inventor of the drawn tube, lived in a small house in High Bullen, close to the tube works of James Russell.
On Holyhead Road was the home and forge of the Rev. J. Hardy. He was the inventor and patentee of the welded axle which was later developed and exploited by the firm of Patent Shaft.
And just to finish off our interesting read of the ‘Poor Law Rates 1835. (See, I told you it was interesting)
The impression we get from this book is that Wednesbury was experiencing a lot of poverty and trade depression.
Because at Elwell’s works, four of the five hearths in the Chafry were not working at the time, and neither of the two furnaces of William Kettle were working. (Not working? … no rates to pay!)
Of the 1,642 properties named in this register, 45 were standing empty, 315 were in arrears with their rates, and no less than 416, (almost 25%) of the poorer properties were marked off as non-collectable.


These are the sort of books I like reading now, because it is from these records, we learn our history. “And if I have problems reading these old books? Well, there is always Google, because someone has already read them before you.”
There are a few people on our face book page  that actually keep the most amazing things like: their wedding bill, their Aunt’s school exercise book, their old postcards, old account books, ledgers, note book and of course their photographs.
I wished I had kept every single thing from my (as yet) short life.
So don’t throw away ‘ANYTHING’!
In the future, these things may become very important to people.
But, if you don’t want all the clutter? Offer them to the ‘Wednesbury history society’, they will gladly take them off your hands.
I’m off to read an un-published book about iron workings in the Black Country now.
I bet i find loads of stuff about Wednesbury in there!


About the The 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act: This actually caused great suffering because although there was help for poor people in the 1800s, changes to the law in 1834 made it much harder for people to find help.

The Poor Law

The Poor Law was the way that the poor were helped in 1815. The law said that each parish had to look after its own poor. If you were unable to work then you were given some money to help you survive. However, the cost of the Poor Law was increasing every year. By 1830 it cost about £7 million and criticism of the law was mounting.

  • The money was raised by taxes on middle and upper class people, causing resentment. They complained that money went to people who were lazy and did not want to work. (That’s new?)
  • Critics also suggested that allowance systems made the situation worse because they encouraged poor people to have children that they could not afford to look after.
  • Another criticism of the old Poor Law was that it kept workers’ wages low because employers knew that wages would be supplemented by money provided by the Poor Law.

The 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act

illustration of men sitting in rows in squalid conditions chopping wood in a workhouse

Men chopping wood in a workhouse

In 1834 the Poor Law Amendment Act was passed by Parliament. This was designed to reduce the cost of looking after the poor as it stopped money going to poor people except in exceptional circumstances. Now if people wanted help they had to go into a workhouse to get it. The poor were given clothes and food in the workhouse in exchange for several hours of manual labour each day. Families were split up inside the workhouse. People had to wear a type of uniform, follow strict rules and were on a bad diet of bread and watery soup. Conditions were made so terrible that only those people who desperately needed help would go there.

  • Landowners, including Sir Robert Peel and the Duke of Wellington, supported the Act.
  • James Kay-Shuttleworth (a progressive doctor and Poor Law Commissioner) supported the act because he believed that people were poor because of their own foolishness.
  • In Andover it was reported that people living in the workhouse were starving to death and were trying to eat the bones that they were crushing as part of their work. Because of this and similar reports the read it here poor lawgovernment introduced stricter rules about conditions in the workhouse as well making inspections.
  • People like Richard Oastler (a political campaigner) wrote pamphlets and letters to newspapers describing the Poor Law Amendment Act as cruel and unchristian. Oastler described the workhouses as “prisons for the poor”.
  • The poor became scared of the threat of having to move into a workhouse for help. In north England they rioted and attacked workhouses.
  • Many people thought that the act was wrong as it seemed to punish people who were poor through no fault of their own, for example the sick or the old.
  • Many local officials felt that the old system worked well as it was. The taxes that people had to pay to look after the poor were low and the system was adapted to the local area. Many were also unhappy with what they saw as interference by people from London.
  • Anti-Poor Law committees were set up to fight against the Poor Law Amendment Act. They organised meetings and petitions calling for the act to be repealed.

It was a bad lot, a sorry state to be in and something we should hope will never return, but chances are …..?



Much thanks to Blackcountryman for about 90% of deciphering an almost un-readable scan of this little book. When you hit on anything like this, then Google is your friend. And it was this that helped me come across an index of the Blackcountryman publications and even better? I already had this issue. This article had been written in 1972.
I can’t link you to the actual article because, unless you have purchased the archived material, you can’t read it. But you can own them by going here:   http://www.blackcountrysociety.co.uk/blackcountryman/

Spot the difference.

Spot the difference

spot the differenceThey say you learn something new every day, and that’s a good thing, because Knowledge is power.
But today I’m wondering, is there a saying for; Finally noticing something that has been staring you right in your face for over a year, but you were too stupid to even see it?
Well if there isn’t, there really should be!

Over a year ago when I first started on this adventure into the history of Wednesbury, one of the first pictures I uploaded, was a picture of Wednesbury’s free library. And ever since that day I must have uploaded over 40 pictures of that building.
Well, yesterday, (31/10/2013 to be exact”) I noticed something for the very first time.
“The mixture of Library pictures I have aren’t the same building?
But not only are they not the same building, they are not even on the same site”!

Yes folks, this is coming from the person who is ‘supposed’ to be: ‘The history of Wednesbury’.
(“I’m not afraid to admit I’m ‘often’ this stupid”)

And before you think “Well, It is probably an easy mistake to make?” Go take another look at the picture above.  ….. No contest is there really, I have just won  the ‘thicko’ of the week award?.

“So, I shall start again with what I already knew”;  The Free Library and Baths opened in 1878 and were built at a cost of £6,700, £1,200 of which was given by public subscription.

lesure library1That will be that one in the picture on the left.

“But what I didn’t even think to check was”;
By the early 1900s the facilities at Wednesbury’s public library, the Free Library, were becoming inadequate. The library had been in existence for nearly thirty years, during which time the population had increased, and the demand for library services was greater than ever.

One serious problem though, was the lack of space, and this could not really be rectified because there was no room on the site for the building to be extended. The rooms were poorly lit, and poorly ventilated, and lacked modern equipment.

Mr. Thomas StanleyThe librarian, Mr Thomas Stanley, could see only one solution to the problem, a new and larger site containing a larger building with up-to-date facilities. The problem as ever, was funding such a project.

In 1902 he approached the Scottish-American industrialist, multi-millionaire and philanthropist Mr Andrew Carnegie in the hope of obtaining a grant. Initially Mr Carnegie refused, but Thomas Stanley persevered, and continued to write to him, explaining the library’s difficult predicament.
blog andrewIn December 1904, Mr Carnegie changed his mind and wrote to the Town Clerk, Mr Thomas Jones, informing him that he would provide £5,000 for the erection of a new free public library, as he owed much to Wednesbury because it was here that his firm first saw the experiment in the basic open hearth process of making steel.

The Town Council unanimously accepted Mr Carnegie’s offer. All that was needed for the project  to begin, was a new site.
Finding a new site proved more difficult than expected. By the autumn of 1906 a site had still not been found, and so in December of that year, the Mayor and Mayoress, Mr and Mrs Handley, generously gave a suitable piece of land on the corner of Walsall Street, and Hollies Drive to the town. The project could at last begin.

Several sets of plans were submitted by various architects, which were assessed by Mr Guy Dawber, President of the Royal Institute of British Architects. The chosen design had been submitted by Crouch, Butler, & Savage of Birmingham, who became the architects for the new building. The contract for building the new library was given to Mr T. Elvins of Hockley, Birmingham.

On 22nd October, 1907 the Mayor, Alderman John Handley, laid the foundation stone, and building work quickly got underway. On almost a year to the day (28th October, 1908), Alderman Handley returned to officially open the new library, which at the time was one of the best in the country.

lesure library2The lovely building in free Renaissance style is a tribute to the work of the architects. It is faced with red Ruabon bricks, and Monks Park stone, and has a domed cupola.
The main entrance in Hollies Drive is richly carved, and was originally filled with a patent revolving door to provide freedom from loss of heat, and draught’s.
It was  a delight to enter the wonderful entrance hall with its ornate white columns, and beautifully decorated plaster ceiling. The upper floor is reached by a fine stone staircase with an attractive balustrade, and an elegant wooden handrail.
The first floor rooms, like the entrance hall, are beautifully decorated with fine ceilings, and plenty of light from the well-placed windows.

So there you go …. I have officially placed myself in that rare but ‘Always to be remembered’ position of being : “Not quite as clever as you thought you was”….

Always a good place to be though …. It grounds you, you know? Smile

site if lib          old lib n new lib

     old lib in site

The patch of grass you see (top left picture) is where the first library used to be. Top right picture shows both locations of new and old Library & the picture (above centre) is the library superimposed back onto the grass. (One thing I’m good at then?)

lesure lib doors    reference room  lending depo

 staircase     news room     entrance hall

Right from the start the library fully catered for the needs of the local population. By the 1930s around 160,000 books were issued each year. The library is one of the most beautiful buildings in the town, it is still a great joy to enter, just as it must have been when new. It now has the latest technology, and has retained all of its magnificent architectural features. It is a credit to the local authority.

All credit for the description & pictures of this new library goes to the historian Bev Parker. An amazing site full of Black Country history.

Link to Bev Parker.