Growing up in Brownhills part 1
I was born on April 10th 1941, at 55 Coppice Side Brownhills, which is a road off the Pelsall road, by the site of the Jolly Collier Public House, since demolished for development by T & S Stores.
No 55 was the end house in a terraced block of 10, this photo, taken from the railway line, shows the row in the background.
I was the eldest of three boys having twin brothers four years younger than me.
My father worked at the Grove Colliery.
He was employed there in 1930 when Fourteen miners lost their lives in a black damp gas explosion. The next photo shows the funeral procession of ten of the miners who were buried in a communal grave in Brownhills cemetery.
The house at 55 Coppice Side was coal board owned, of the two up, two down design, with electricity just for downstairs lighting, and no power sockets. With only a cold water supply all hot water had to be boiled on the cast iron black leaded grate, using a kettle. All food had to be cooked in the side oven, or on the hob. The following photo shows a typical grate of that era.
Cast iron levers could be used to divert the heat to the oven or hob as required. Temperature control was hit or miss, depending on the fire control. My father, being employed by the Coal Board, received a coal allowance as part of his wage. Charlie Barton, a haulage contractor from Pelsall had the contract to deliver the allowance coal. which was loose tipped in the road outside the house. The coal which came in large lumps (some weighing up to a hundredweight) then had to be moved into the coal house for storage.
On wash days, normally Mondays, all clothes were washed by hand in a tub, agitated with a posher, to remove the dirt.
Persil or Rinso washing powder was used, with the addition of a Blue bag to help soften the water. Most families had a water-butt outside, under the downspout, to collect rainwater for washing purposes. Again this water must have been heated on the universal fire grate. After washing, the clothes would go through the mangle to remove most of the water, before hanging out to dry on the clothes line.
When dry, clothing was ironed with a flat-iron, heated on, that’s right, the fire grate.
When it came to personal bathing, a zinc bath was brought in from outside, and filled with water again from the kettle/grate system. Everyone took turns in the bath, using the same water, due to the extended preparation time. The following photo shows a typical back yard, with the bath hanging on the wall, and the water-butt under the downspout
Toilet needs were provided by means of the outside toilet block, adjacent to the coal house.
It must be said at this stage that every one respected their neighbours property and belongings, with no fear of theft.
The front of the house faced the entrance to Potters Clay & Coal, open cast mine. Sentinel steam lorries regularly transported Clay and Coal from the site.
At the rear of the property common land separated us from the railway line from Norton Canes , which transported coal to the large Marshaling yard at Norton Junction. (details of this railway line can be found on another page of this blog).
Walsall & District Co-op delivered milk and bread on a daily basis using horse-drawn carts.
Alan Bird delivered the meat on a Saturday.
Mrs Allport ran a small shop in the Pelsall road, but a two-mile walk was needed to visit Brownhills for major supplies. Shrigley’s the Grocers was our main supplier. No television then, and the lucky people who owned a radio, had to take the accumulator to the local radio shop for charging, on a weekly basis.
Starting school at the age of five, meant a daily walk of a mile each way to Clayhanger infants school, whatever the weather. Miss Wistance was my first Teacher. On Sunday I made two visits to the Sunday School held in the Methodists Chapel in Clayhanger Lane. Mr John Poxon ran the school, usually held in the large wooden building to the left of the Chapel.
Out of school activities were spent playing outside with other children. Hop scotch, kick the can, and hide and seek were some of the many games we played. More adventurous things we did were, off-road cycling (tracking) on the common, fishing in the canal, and scrounging on the local tip for beer & pop bottles, which we returned for the deposit. Many hours were spent watching the hump shunting at Norton Junction.
Also I spent a lot of leisure time at Big House Farm, generally messing about and watching the various farming activities carried out there including the milking of their herd of cows.
At the coach station, enterprising youths with hand carts, would take your luggage to the various boarding houses or hotels in the area. To me the highlight of the week at Rhyl, was a ride on the steamed hauled, narrow gauge Marine Lake Railway , around the large expanse of water.
At the age of 8 I left Clayhanger infants school, and started at Ogley Hay Junior school in Church Hill adjacent to St James Church.
My daily walk to School then increased to 2 miles per day.
To be continued in part 2