Burntwood Family History Group
   Home      Journal 2013 07-09 Volume 21 Number 3
Extracts from Burntwood Family History Group Journal
 
 
 
 
 
July - September 2013
 
 
 
 
Vol 21.3
 
Contents of this issue.
 
A Crisis in the Chair 1
News From the Secretary 2
Chairman's Report to the AGM, 2013 3
Research on Behalf of Members and Non-Members6
Could EU Regulations Restrict Genealogical Research? 7
Small Mistake - Big Consequences 8
Reviews of Guest Speakers' Talks 9
Arising from Coal Dust - Part 18 12
Unusual Epitaphs 15
Granny was a Brothel Keep er 16
The Beautiful Game 16
Remembering Len Owens 17
This Issue’s Cover Photograph 19
Another Request for Genealogical Help 19

A Crisis in the Chair
 

Dear Members,

On 9th September at The Old Mining College, Chasetown, the Annual General Meeting was held of the Burntwood Family History Group. A total of 24 members attended. The majority of members who held various positions on the 2012–2013 Committee, agreed to be re-elected to their current positions on the 2013–2014 Committee. However, a Chairperson was not elected. During the year 2012–2013, due to unforeseen circumstances, our Chairperson had to step down. The position was filled temporarily – but with the strict understanding that this was to be only to the AGM date – by Jane Leake and Pam Woodburn. Since the BFHG was formed in 1986, founder members Jane and Pam have held the position of Chair between them many, many times. Jane and Pam did not volunteer themselves for the year 2012–2013, nor did they volunteer themselves for year 2013–2014. They feel that ‘new blood’ is required to fill the position and take the BFHG into the future. Jane has stressed that the position is not a particularly demanding one (far less so than Secretary or Treasurer), but whoever takes the post does need to be able to commit themselves to attending all or at least most of the Group’s meetings.
 
Unfortunately, none of the other members attending the AGM volunteered themselves or nominated anyone else for the position of Chairperson.
At 19.00 on Thursday 3rd October 2013 there is a BFHG Committee Meeting at The Old Mining College. We need to find someone to fill the post by that date if possible. If you would like the position of Chairperson, or you are able to suggest someone who would like the position of Chairperson, then please, before 3rd October, contact any Committee Member on our ‘Who We Are’ webpage http://www.bfhg.org.uk/Who-We-Are.php If you would like to take on the position of Chairperson but have reservations, previous Chairs such as Pam, Jane, Geoff Sorrell and other Committee Members will be there to help and support. If you want any information about the position, please contact Jane (bandjleake@talktalk.net), Pam (pam.woodburn@talktalk.net) or Geoff (gassor33@talktalk.net). Alternatively, you can use the BFHG email address enquiries@bfhg.org.uk. Emails at this address are picked up by myself. The BFHG cannot continue without a Chair, and I don’t have to tell you what will happen to the BFHG if a new Chairperson is not elected. Regards to you all, Alan Betts (BFHG Webmaster).
 
News from the Secretary
 
There have been no new members join the group this quarter. We were sad to hear of the recent death of our member Len Owens. A number of members who knew Len went to the memorial event for him, where they gave a donation. Len’s daughter has sent me a letter thanking all those who went and said that the money will be paid to the Phantom Garden Maintenance Trust to help care for his garden at the National Memorial Arboretum. If anyone has any articles, poems or items of interest to be included in the journal could they send it direct to Brian Asbury or let me have it and I will forward it to Brian for you. The Journal comes out in January, April, July and October, but any items to be included need to be with Brian a month before. He always needs further copy, so please send in your stories. I would like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that annual subscriptions are due in on 1st January 2014, please make your cheques payable to Burntwood Family History Group. Thank you. Pauline Bowen
 
Chairman’s Report to the AGM, 2013 - by Jane Leake

As you know, Pam and I have been sharing the Chairmanship since Autumn, 2012, when Carole Jones resigned due to the illness of her husband, Alan. This was only ever intended to be a strictly temporary arrangement, to be in force only until this year’s AGM. Monday meetings have usually been quite well attended and, on the whole speakers, have been good. The cost has risen considerably in the last twelve months, the reason being the rising cost of fuel. The subjects have been varied, reflecting our interest in family history and giving us background information on how our forebears lived and what they may have experienced. In 2014, our format will be the same, but there will only be eight meetings when a speaker has been booked. We are planning two more members’ evenings, as these seem to have been popular – and, of course, there will be the Christmas Social and AGM. Thursday meetings have been poorly attended this last few months, but hopefully more of you will want to come again in the autumn and winter months. Remember, these meetings are informal gatherings, enabling you to come along and discuss your ‘brick walls’ and seek help, or simply talk to people about your research and get new ideas. The computer room will also continue to be available free of charge, but it may not be possible to use Ancestry.co.uk, as the County Council have objected due to cookies and drop-downs. Many thanks to those who come along every month and give help, advice and their time. I am sure many more of you would benefit from joining us.

Geoff Colverson, our librarian for many years, resigned due to ill health and we thank him for his work and support. We have purchased some new books and Janice Hunt has agreed to take charge of the library. Thanks, Jan. The Transcription Project continues and this year we have produced two new CDs, containing the records of St. Mary’s, Lichfield and also Armitage with Handsacre. A start has been made on Hednesford, St. Peter’s records, which we hope to complete by Christmas, providing we get volunteers to help with the checking. Bernard Daniels is still spending many hours a week transcribing and then transferring the information to CD. We are, as ever, very mindful of his contribution to the project and do appreciate it. Many thanks Bernard.
 
We are fortunate to receive grants from various bodies, including Staffs County Council and Burntwood Town Council. To those who have spent time filling in application forms on our behalf, thank you. This year, Geoff Sorrell gave up the job of Hon. Secretary, which he had held for many years, and I would like to thank him for his contribution to the running of the group. I have always been able to turn to him for help and advice. He continues to take on research for people requesting help via the website, so he is filling an important role yet again. Pauline Bowen has taken over from Geoff and we welcome her and hope she will enjoy working on behalf of the Group to ensure its smooth running.
Jeff Wilson has continued as Treasurer this year, until ill health intervened and he had to have some help. However, he would like to continue in the post with the help of an assistant to back up him up this year. We have a volunteer for this, Chris Gradden, who is willing to assist Jeff and also to join the committee. Thank you Jeff, for your work. Thanks also must go to Tom Lee who kindly stepped in to look after the accounts when Jeff was in hospital. Thank you very much, Tom. My thanks go to all who have helped with the running of the Group, including Pam Turner, who sells the raffle tickets, Barbara Williams, who is always ready to step in and is still selling our CDs, and Steve Bailey, who looks after the Group’s research material.
 
Without the help of Jenny Lee, there would have been no trip to Kew this year. She worked hard to ensure it was a day to enjoy and remember. Thanks to all who supported the trip. Also thank you to those who have volunteered to serve the refreshments at our meetings and to Jenny Lee for doing the shopping. Lastly, but by no means least, thanks go to our Webmaster, Alan Betts, for his guardianship of the website, which continues to attract attention and is often praised. It is a time-consuming business. My co-Acting Chair Pam Woodburn was delayed in France so was unable to attend the AGM, but the following areas were those she intended to cover in her speech. The trip to the Mormon Library earlier this year was most interesting, but very few took the opportunity to find out what is on offer there, which was a pity.Various members have contributed to the quarterly Journal, and it makes interesting reading. We do need contributions from more people and are offering a year’s free membership to the person who contributes the most interesting article, to be judged by Brian Asbury, the Journal’s editor and compiler. We don’t see Brian at meetings very often due to his other commitments, but his contribution is much appreciated. The Lichfield Library surgeries have restarted but are now on a Tuesday afternoon, and if you would like details, please contact Pam. The Memorial Project continues and there has been some sterling work produced. We hope this will continue as we approach the centenary of the outbreak of World War I next year. Pam has applied to the Lottery fund for a grant to support our efforts and we await the outcome. Our auditor, Vic Vayro, has undertaken a lot of extra work this year to complete the accounts. I’m glad to say that he has agreed to continue auditing the books next year.
 
The Committee has consisted of twelve members this year. Of those, only John Catliffe has asked to stand down. Pam and I both wish to stand down and leave the way clear for a new person. We shall both continue to contribute to the group. Pam will be organising the Memorial Project and library sessions. I will continue to book speakers and work on the transcription project, but neither of us wish to continue as Chairman. However, without a Chairman, the Group cannot continue to function. It could be a joint effort again if you wish but the two people will need to keep in close touch. The Chairman needs to be present at both monthly meetings and be familiar with researching family history to enable them to answer questions. Help is at hand from Pam and I to pass on other duties, advice, etc. if requested. As no-one was elected at the AGM, the matter is to be decided at the committee meeting booked for 3rd October. We also need a minutes secretary to record committee meetings, and luckily we do have a volunteer. Sheila Clarke already writes up the notes on the speakers, but she is happy to take on the minuting of committee meetings as well. The other members of the Committee who are continuing are Barbara Williams, Geoff Sorrell, Gill Wilne, Jenny Lee, Alan Betts and Harold Haywood.
 
Research on Behalf of Members and Non-Members - by Geoff Sorrell
 
Since the last issue of the Journal, we have been asked to research several names on behalf of members and enquirers to our website. The names being researched are as follows: John Bickley Hodgkins, b 1785 in Hammerwich. The baptism has been confirmed. If anyone has Hodgkins in their tree, please contact me and I will give you the enquirers details. William Bullock, b. 1916 in Burntwood. The baptism has been confirmed. He was the son of George and Annie and there were several other children. William was buried at Christchurch but there is no record of a burial service so it could be that he was brought to Burntwood from somewhere else for burial. He was killed in an accident whilst employed by the RAC as a patrolman in an accident with a lorry in Cheshire. Morgans (now John Short & Sons) were the undertakers. There may be an address – 156, Lichfield Road, Burntwood – for the family. If you have any Bullocks in your family tree who may be part of this family, please let me know. Nellie Elizabeth Holford of Holdford, b. 1915 St. Lukes, Cannock. D. of William Henry and Jeanette of Heath Hayes. Oldest brother, William H,S, Holford was living in Burntwood in the 1940s. If you have any connection with this family, please contact me. Raybold, Rebold, Rabold, Raybould. Any information on this family which has connections with Gentleshaw, Farewell, Longdon, Heath Hayes and The Ring O’ Bells pub in Boney Hay, would be much appreciated by Philip Raybould. I am fairly certain that there are events in the Cannock St. Luke registers which have not yet been transcribed.
 
Could EU regulation restrict genealogical research?
From an article in The Irish Times on June 26, 2013 By Fiona Gartland

European genealogy societies raise concerns that new proposed EU regulations could hamper future family history research. According to the Genealogical Society of Ireland, if a proposed European Union regulation on data protection goes ahead, access to old parish records on microfilm, and to records held by the State, including birth, death and marriage certificates, could be restricted. Michael Merrigan, the General Secretary of the GSI, said the EU proposed general data protection regulation requires public records held by the State, including those mentioned above, to be considered as personal information. “For data protection purposes, we could end up in a situation where genealogical, biographical, historical or even journalistic research will be in some way curtailed,” he said. The proposed regulation, which aims to protect individuals’ rights with regards to processing data, would have direct effect and would not need to be transposed into law in individual EU states.
 
Mr Merrigan said that anything introduced as part of the regulation should be done under the principle of public ownership and right of access to genealogical heritage. This principle should be included in any measures dealing with access to records of a genealogical potential. Similar concerns about the proposed regulations have been expressed by genealogical societies in other EU member states. The Genealogical Society of Finland, for example, wants genealogy to be included in the regulation as an exception to the rules of data protection. A meeting of the EU Council of Justice and Home Affairs was due to discuss the proposed regulations in Lithuania in July, but Mr Merrigan said, “There is a danger that if this regulation came in that genealogical research and the publication thereof would be restricted.” He also said the issue highlighted the need for the establishment of an EU federation of genealogical societies to address matters of concern which transcend borders within the EU. Other commentators, however, have expressed a belief that the new regulations are unlikely to affect material which is not already restricted in some way by existing legislation within individual states. As usual with these things, it looks like we will just have to wait and see...
 
Small Mistake – Big Consequences? - by Alan Betts
 
On Friday 31st May 2013, my youngest daughter Kelly Ann BETTS married her fiancé Paul Mark James DUNBAVAN at All Saints Church, Alrewas. Following the signing of the two marriage registers and the marriage certificate, the marriage certificate was passed to the Best Man for safe keeping. As a family historian, and because it was my daughter’s wedding, I wanted to get my hands on the marriage certificate, to get my copy. I took possession of it from the Best Man, and as the family gathered round the happy couple to congratulate them, I read the marriage certificate. To my horror, I saw that Paul’s surname had been wrongly spelt. Instead of it being spelt DUNBAVAN, it had been spelt DUNGAVAN. The same spelling mistake had also been made on his father’s surname. Whilst everyone was passing on their congratulations, I nipped over and checked the two marriage registers, and yes, both registers contained the same spelling mistakes. I approached the officiate, and pointed out the errors. He then changed the G to a B on the entries on both the marriage registers and the marriage certificate, and initialled the changes. What would have been the consequences if I was not a family historian, if I hadn’t checked the marriage certificate, and if the marriage registers had gone off to be registered unchanged? By the way, the rest of the day went absolutely perfectly.
 
Reviews of Guest Speakers’ Talks - Reviewer: Sheila Clarke
 
June 2013: Dr. Richard Churchley on ‘Rural Industries Before the Coming of the Railway’
 
Dr. Richard Churchley became interested in the many industries which were found in villages before the development of railways when he was researching his own family history. Many of his ancestors lived in the counties of Worcestershire and Warwickshire, and Dr. Churchley illustrated his talk with examples of the trades and occupations found in these counties. Luckily, he found that occupations were listed in the parish records from around 1695. He also made use of militia lists and probate records. He found that between the years of 1700 and 1750, the village of Coughton and the nearby hamlet of Sambourne had a total population of 400, including about 80 adult males. More than 30 different trades and occupations were listed in the records, apart from the gentry and the trades associated with the smooth running of a large estate. Occupations ranged from yeomen and agricultural workers, which one would expect, to attorneys, excise men, drovers, tanners, skinners and workers in leather, including shoemakers (cordwainers). Salters distributed and sold salt from Droitwich to places as far a field as Oxford. There were colliers – which, in this area, referred to charcoal burners, a trade necessary in the iron industry at that time; and there were also blacksmiths and farriers. Trades concerned with building were present, including masons, thatchers, sawyers and brick makers. Bricks from the local brick works were used in the construction of Coughton Court. The retail trade provided the necessary goods for everyday living. The chandler originally sold candles, but gradually included goods we would find in a hardware store. Butchers, bakers, mercers, haberdashers and millers were all mentioned in the parish records. There were also trades whose names we no longer recognise. For example, a ‘loader’ was an under miller, while a ‘tuberer’ split laths used in constructing walls before plastering; a cutter castrated animals; and the ‘aishman’ collected ash and sold it on as fertilizer. The records show that there were more industries in the area in 1705 than in 1805. Needle making began as a cottage industry in 1630. At that time, Redditch was a hamlet, but by 1850 it was the centre of the needle making industry. Transport links were poor in the countryside, so trades needed to be in the villages where they were needed, because goods could not be easily transported over long distances.
 
Road improvement came with the establishment of the turnpikes and the building of canals. Finally, the development of steam power and the railways sounded the death knell of rural industries as the problems associated with transporting goods over long distances no longer applied. Many processes became mechanised; steam power meant that factories did not have to rely on power from water mills and could be developed anywhere. For a short time after the late 18th century, windmills were built because it was only possible to have a certain number of water mills along a given stretch of river. However, windmills fell out of favour because wind was unreliable as an energy source compared to either water or steam power. The textile industry was the first centralised industry, and it developed mainly in Lancashire because of the favourable climate. However, Dr. Churchley believes that the label ‘Industrial Revolution’ is a misnomer, because Worcestershire, Warwickshire and Staffordshire were industrialised long before large factories were constructed. Dr. Churchley illustrated his talk with slides that gave clues to an industrial past in what look now to be very rural areas. In Alcester, for example, Church Hill House – once a half-timbered house – was refaced by Tom Lucas in 1698. Lucas had made money by organising nail makers in the area. On the slide showing the river Avon near Binton, the remains of a coal quay are visible, while another slide, of the river Arrow at Spernal, showed at first glance a pretty country scene. However, on closer inspection, uneven ground and the vestiges of ruins could be seen. In 1680, there were many industries in the area. These included a brick works, a plaster pit or gypsum quarry, which was run by a family called Hollis, and a fulling mill, where cloth was pounded. One tradesman was a black man called John Worcester, perhaps showing more population mobility then than we have been led to believe. Beoley had a paper mill in the 17th century, and in Aston Cantlow church there is a memorial to a paper making family called Mander. Over time, wood became more expensive as a building material, and stone became economically viable. Masons dug stone for themselves, originally near where they were to build. In Wilmcote, stonemasons’ cottages built with blue lias can still be seen. After the coming of the canal in 1790, the masons exported the blue limestone along the canal. Wilmcote grew from a hamlet into a village because of this trade. A trade which gradually diminished during the 17th century was thatching. In Worcestershire and Warwickshire, thatchers used long straw. In towns, this type of roofing died out because of the fire hazard. However, even today, some thatched cottages remain, particularly in small villages.
 
It is said that ‘all of a pig can be used except the squeal’. Cattle can also used from top to toe (except the moo)! From the horns, buttons, drinking vessels and powder horns were made. The word ‘lantern’ comes from the old word ‘lanthorn’, where slivers of horn were used in the sides of lamps, as they allowed the light through but were robust. Apart from the meat and leather, hooves were rendered down to make glue.
At this time, though agricultural labourers were at the beck and call of the farmer, most rural tradesmen worked from home and often had land on which to grow crops and keep livestock to feed their families. They chose from day to day what work they would do. When trades became centralised, their time, too, was constrained by the factory owner. We were shown a slide of Tan House Farm, where the land was farmed and the cow hides tanned. The smell from the tannery must have been extremely unpleasant. Many tanners lived in the forest of Feckenham because they were close to lime and oak used for tanning. The name ‘Saw Pit Cottage’ is a reminder that large trunks of wood were sawn over a pit with the master sawyer or ‘top dog’, standing above the pit with one handle of the saw and the ‘under dog’ – usually the apprentice – standing in the pit holding the other end of the saw and being showered with all the sawdust! Pub names often reflect the trades of the area. Examples include: ‘The Needle Makers Arms’ in Studley; ‘The Forge’ in Bidford on Avon; ‘The Nail Maker’ found in many areas; and ‘The Gate Hangs Well’ – the gate being the one closing a toll road. Street names remind us of past uses. In Alcester, for instance, the Market Hall was where butter and eggs could be sold under cover; the Shambles was where cattle were slaughtered; and The Bull Ring was where bulls were baited. It was illegal to sell beef not baited, as the practice was said to make the beef tender. In Pebworth, there is a circular trough and stone to which, in the past, a donkey or pony would turn the stone in the trough to crush the fruit in cider and perry making Richard Churchley finished by talking about workhouses, where originally each parish would care for their own infirm or destitute. In 1834, an Act was passed by Parliament establishing Union Workhouses, to deal with the growing population and to persuade people to move to where there was work. This created a new set of problems. We will all, I am sure, be more aware of the hidden past both when visiting country villages and when looking closer to home. Were these places always such quiet backwaters? Dr. Churchley’s talk showed that the development of the railways had enormous consequences for the inhabitants, many unforeseen at the time.
 
Arising from Coal Dust - Part 18: Remembering ‘The Terrace’ - by Alan Brookes
 
Recently I took my own remembrance tour of Chase Terrace and Boney Hay, and noticed the changes the passing of time had etched into the place. Open green fields that I played on as boy are now covered by tarmac, concrete and housing estates. Constantly passing traffic now corrupts the once calm streets and leafy lanes. The old St. John’s Church in High Street, where my parents were caretakers, has been replaced with a new smart modern community church, but the same cenotaph is there, the one where Alan Garbett fluffed the last post fanfare with his frozen bugle. The chapel at Boney Hay looks a sad old dirty building, now a squash club and only an echo of the warm citadel of open doors that would bustle with evangelists and Methodists entering to sing along with the wind organ. I remember once giving a small piano recital here to a Sunday afternoon congregation of visiting Methodists. Public houses have disappeared. Gone is the ‘Two Oaks’ on High Street – a favourite ‘watering hole’ of my Uncle Charlie. It was here that my Granddad Brown attended the Ancient Order of Buffaloes (The Buffs) and my Dad and Uncle Bill attended the chrysanthemum club meetings. The Lodge on Rugeley Road and the Lodge grounds are now replaced with a housing estate. It was here, in 1953, that the village celebrated Queen Elizabeth’s coronation with an outside communal dinner and fete. My brother Peter, resplendent in his fez and velvet coat, gained third prize in the fancy dress competition as ‘a little Turk’. My offering, carrying a football and with a number 7 painted on my white shirt purporting to be Stanley Matthews, only received an ‘also ran’ prize. The Lodge was also the headquarters of the pigeon fanciers’ club. It was here that Uncle George and Granddad would take the leg rings of their prize pigeons to be registered by the checkers after returning from a continental race. Thirlby’s shop on the corner of Rugeley Road and Chorley Road has gone, now assimilated into a housing estate. This was the boundary point marking the territories of the Boney Hay and the Chase Terrace boys’ gangs.
 
Gee’s shop in High Street is now someone’s private house. I used to visit their shop to obtain Jaffa oranges for my Dad to take underground with him to quench his thirst on that dusty coalface at No. 3 Colliery. The field where ‘Dolly’ used to graze is now part of the new St. John’s Church. My old school mate Eric Robinson is still there on the corner of Rugeley Road and Spinney Lane and runs Robinson’s butchers shop. I called in the shop and bought some pork chops from him. We warmly greeted each other and between him wrapping the meat for me recalled old times on ‘The Terrace’. It was his Granddad Clemence that bought his own daffodils from me for 6d. a bunch. When I was a boy, Spinney Lane was just a dirt track etched with ruts and pot- holes. Other roads in Chase Terrace that were just dirt tracks back then were Railway Lane, School Lane, Water Street, Cross Street (top part), Thorpe Street and Holly Grove Lane. Other un-metalled roads in Boney Hay were Birch Terrace, North Street (bottom part) and Oak Lane. The scout hut in Ironstone Lane now has a smart concrete-clad building. Gone is the wooden shed that provided such fellowship to boy scouts over many generations between two world wars and since. Visiting the Post Office today is a lot different from when I was a boy. Then, you simply approached the counter and received immediate friendly service. Today a long trek awaits you as you negotiate the aisles laid out in a snaking pattern to accommodate the queues. When you eventually reach the counter, there are about twelve desks, with eleven of them unmanned. It is then an extremely difficult process to communicate with the counter assistant, let alone see them clearly through the armoured glazing. Another feature of modern day living that is so different from the 1940s and 1950s is today’s automated telephone services. When using the telephone years ago, you actually spoke to a human being, who gave you personal attention. Today, the standard machine-generated reply is a numerical optional choice menu to connect you to the appropriate service. Very often, the chosen route you take only sends you back from where you entered the service in the first place. It’s like playing a bad computer game!
 
In my boyhood, the standard utility services were dealt with by the appropriate organisation. If a problem existed with a leaking water main, the local water works company man appeared on his bicycle. If an overhead electricity power line had blown down, the team from the electricity board could be seen fixing them with ladders affixed to the telegraph poles. Today, we are just as likely to get a gas person repairing the telephones, or errant electricity being sorted out by the water authority! No trace exists of the Chase Cinema at San keys Corner. An ugly block of flats called ‘Jervis Court’ now occupies the same space. Here used to be the best meeting point on the Chase – a haven from the rain, under that curved canopy where I learned the future attractions coming to the cinema for the following week. Here was the place to meet my girlfriend before I paid for both of us to enter the cinema together, perhaps even being rash and paying an extra sixpence to sit in the balcony with her.
I ventured a lonely walk into St. John’s cemetery on Rugeley Road. Here I recognised names on the tombstones of people I grew up with. There are too many to recall here, but three particularly caught my eye. The first was that of Mr. William Brookes and his wife Doris, who always gave me a cup of tea on my paper round and are buried side by side in a simple but touching grave. The second was an ex-neighbour of mine, Jimmy Tonks, an RAF groundsman who was tragically killed at an air show at Biggin Hill in 1953 when only 23 years of age. He lies with his mother and brother. Last, but certainly not least, I found the grave of Joe Harvey and his wife. The only reason I was able to stand there in the cemetery that day was because of Joe. His lifetime experience as a miner saved me from certain death. “Thank you, Joe,” I muttered to him through tears that freely flowed down my face and dripped onto the green coloured quartz pebbles that covered his neat grave. “You not only saved my life, but you saved me from a life in the coal mines.”
 
Although not knowing him very well as a person outside the environment of the colliery, I acknowledged the sympathy and the irony that I felt looking down at his grave. I know now that my own personal guardian angel had been with me that day, by placing me with a person with the experience of Joe. Had I been walking down that old damp tunnel with a raw mining recruit like myself, I would have been lying in that same cemetery along with Joe. “I know what your reward is Joe. That same guardian angel is looking after you now, that looked after us both that morning in Cannock Wood Colliery,” I mentally whispered as I slowly walked back down the cemetery pathway. One of many regrets I have from my life’s experiences is not being able to repay Joe for the ultimate act of saving my life. Long gone, of course is the railway line from Cannock Chase No. 7 Colliery to Cannock Chase No. 3 Colliery. The level crossing gates that allowed trains to puff majestically across High Street are but in my dreams. The actual railway line is now assimilated into the recreation park. Trees and bushes occupy the very place those ‘cotter’ men took their ride on the carriages as they slithered amid cascading sparks down to No. 3 Colliery. ‘The Chequers’ – the house of my Gran and Granddad Brown, where I was born and where I lived from age 14 to 21 – still stands proud and smart. Looking remarkably the same as it did all those years ago, it recently came onto the market for sale. I booked an appointment with the estate agent and went to look the old place over. All my childhood memories came flooding back – some sad, but mostly happy. I walked into every room and reminisced about events that had happened in my life. It was here, within these walls, that I came into the world, and where I was raised. All my memories of my young life were linked with ‘The Chequers’. I was half tempted to think about purchasing the house, valued at £86,000. What a tremendous inflation rate from the £600 it cost my uncles to build it in 1938. After contemplating the thought of living there again, I turned my back and closed the door. The past is the past and cannot be changed or altered. The future is all to play for and what we make of it, shaped by our own actions and decisions guided by conscience and upbringing. What I do know is that whoever bought the house, and whatever children may be raised there again in the future, not any of them could ever receive a more fulfilling or happier childhood than I did in Chase Terrace in the 1940s and 1950s.
 
Unusual Epitaphs
 
Some gravestone inscriptions are much more interesting than standard run-of-the-mill fare like ‘Rest in Peace’. Here are two such examples...
 
John Gill (dates unknown)
Beneath this smooth stone by the bone of his bone
Sleeps Master John Gill;
By lies when alive this attorney did thrive,
And now that he’s dead he lies still.
 
John Cruker (dates unknown)
Bellow maker of Oxford
Here lieth John Cruke, a maker of bellows,
His craft’s master, and king of good fellows;
yet when he came to the hour of his death,
He that made bellows, could not make breath.
 
Granny was a Brothel Keeper
 
So you thought your grandmother was an upright lady of strict Victorian morals? Would you be surprised to find out that she had been five months pregnant when she married your grandfather? Or that she earned her living pimping out young servant girls to drunken sailors? Granny was a Brothel Keeper by Kate Broad and Toni Neobard is an entertaining collection of true stories which illustrate the fascinating and sometimes bizarre world of family history research. A fun read in its own right, this book also outlines many of the traps which lie in wait for the family historian. It will help both newbies and old hands become more effective in their research. Who knows, you too might discover lying brides, exploding sheds and bathchairs, shipwreck survivors, serial bigamists and more ... You can buy this book now for £8.99 and £2 P&P (2nd Class) (UK Only) from http://www.thefamilyhistorypartnership.com/publications/
 
The Beautiful Game?
 
You can’t get away from football these days. However, when we see footballers getting paid millions to kick a ball around, it’s refreshing to remember how the ‘beautiful game’ was when we were kids, when the rules of the game went something like this...

1. The fattest one is always the goalkeeper.
2. The person whose ball it is decides who plays.
3. Penalties are only awarded if an injured player swears enough times.
4. The match only ends when everyone is tired.
5. No matter how many goals you are winning by the winner is always determined by “NEXT GOAL WINS!”
6. No referee is needed.
7. If there is no ball, anything will do, but preferably a rolled-up ball of newspaper held together by a few elastic bands.
8. lf you are picked last, you have no hope in life.
9. Getting a football stuck under a car is the most stressful part of life.
10. When the owner of the ball gets annoyed, it’s game over.
 
Remembering Len Owens, 1920–2013 - Reprinted by kind permission of the Daily Telegraph
 
Len Owens, who died recently aged 92, was a radio operator with the wartime ‘Phantom’ GHQ Liaison Regiment and won the Military Medal for providing communications for the SAS in Occupied France. Born Leonard Caerwyn Owens, the son of a ship’s carpenter in the Merchant Navy, in Liverpool on October 29, 1920, Len went to Sefton Park, a local school. He became head boy, but he left school aged 14 to work for a chandler. He was called up in 1940 and, despite wanting to go into the Royal Navy, was quickly sent for basic training to Prestatyn, North Wales, after which he was sent to the GPO Wireless Training School at Sheffield. Known to his service friends as “Joe”, he subsequently volunteered for Combined Operations and was sent to a training camp at Inverary, Argyll. He embarked for the Middle East before taking part in the invasion of Sicily in July, 1943. He and a small group then moved to Malta, where they lived in a tented camp on an airfield and were bombed and strafed during heavy raids. He later returned to England and, after volunteering to join a signals section of the SAS, he was sent on a parachute course to Tatton Park, Cheshire. Len said afterwards that he found jumping from a static balloon at 800 feet terrifying. After rigorous training, he was dispatched on Operation Dunhill, a mission to liaise with the French Resistance and monitor enemy troop movements heading from the south to bolster defences at the Normandy bridgehead.
 
‘Phantom’ patrols were particularly active after D-Day, when their major role involved racing around Normandy to locate and report the position of all the various Allied units. Early in August 1944, however, Len found himself behind enemy lines supporting a small party of 2nd SAS Regiment, who decided to move north-east to Le Mans to join forces with another SAS unit. Having no transport, they commandeered a number of civilian cars, ripping off doors to ensure an unobstructed field of fire. On learning that a large number of British PoWs were hiding in a forest, they requisitioned buses, adding to the mission’s unconventional vehicle fleet, to ferry those on the run to safety. Len then took part in Operation Loyton, an ill-fated mission under the command of Lt-Col Brian Franks in the Vosges mountains of eastern France. It became clear that the men were being hunted down by sizeable German forces who knew of their presence and had moved reinforcements into the area. An advance party, comprising a small raiding force of SAS supported by Phantoms, had lost all its wireless equipment and was on the run and out of touch. Len was dropped in with Lt-Col Franks and his party to salvage the situation. Through the Resistance, the two groups were reunited, bringing the total number of SAS to 90 men. They embarked on aggressive patrolling and sabotage operations, making the Germans believe they were up against a much larger force than was the case, and intensified their operations further. Well aware that the Allies were operating with the help of the Resistance, the Germans inflicted savage reprisals on local people. Signals from their wireless threatened to give away the saboteurs’ position, and Len had to keep constantly on the move to avoid detection while transmitting. On one occasion, while he and his patrol waited to flash the recognition signal to a vital resupply aircraft, German troops got so close that Len had to dash up a hill, set up his transmitter and fire off a message to abort the drop.
 
The decision was taken in October 1944 to end Operation Loyton. The force was split up into small parties, each instructed to make its way back through enemy lines to Allied positions. Len and his comrades, dodging sentries and grenades, swam across the river Meurthe. They were pursued through forests and eventually approached American forces. Realising there was every chance they would be mistaken for Germans and shot, they stepped into the middle of the road with their hands up and shouted out their identities in English. Many others were less fortunate. Of about 90 men who took part in Operation Loyton, 31 were lost. Of these, only a few were killed in combat; the rest were shot after capture. After Loyton, Len took part in Operation Howard with the 1st SAS under the command of Lt-Col Paddy Mayne. He was in charge of the wireless communications of a squadron of armoured jeeps operating as forward reconnaissance in support of the Second Canadian Army.
Demobilised in 1946, Len was awarded the Military Medal. He returned to his former job in Liverpool, but was unhappy with the pay. He then worked for Rediffusion in Newcastle before running a news agency from 1950 to 1967. For the last part of his working life, he was district controller of Social Services for Teesdale. He retired in 1985. At the National Memorial Arboretum, Len established and maintained a Phantom memorial garden for the signalmen and others who were killed during Operation Loyton. He married Tess Swart in 1946. She predeceased him, and they are survived by their son and daughter.
 
This Issue’s Cover Photograph - ‘SCAMP’ statue, Sankey’s Corner, Chase Terrace - Photo by Alan Betts
 
After many years of fundraising, the ‘dream’ of standing a statue on Sankey’s Corner at Chase Terrace has now been fulfilled. A striking monument to mining, known as SCAMP (Sankey’s Corner Arts Miner Project) was publicly unveiled on Saturday, June 8 of this year. Burntwood Chase Heritage Group and Burntwood Town Council are behind the bronze statue of a miner and his pit pony, a lifelike work created by town sculptor Peter Walker. The unveiling took place in the same week as the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation. People of the town were consulted about what the sculpture should look like and where it should stand, and hundreds turned out to see the unveiling. The crowd were entertained by the Rugeley Power Station Brass Band and cheers rang out as the velvet green covers slipped off the plinth, giving them a first look at the iconic image. Young visitors were also reminded about the harsh conditions that young miners would have faced in the local pits in years gone by. Ponies were used in mines from the mid-18th century until the 20th century. Project spokesman Ron Bradbury said: “This statue will be most significant thing to happen in Burntwood for a generation.” He said it had provided the town with ‘a heart’ and commemorated not only the miners but 100 years of history in Burntwood. “People forget that Chasetown and Chase Terrace did not exist until the pits.” As well as serving as a general monument to the area’s mining heritage, SCAMP stands on a circular brick plinth with plaques bearing individual names. “Although we still need funding, we cannot add any more names to the plaques as they have gone to be cast,” added Mr Bradbury. “There may be a further opportunity for latecomers at a later date.” A book about the history behind the project and pit ponies in general is on sale at £8 per copy. All profits from book sales will go to SCAMP. Peter Walker is the man behind several other pieces of public art, including the recent statue of Erasmus Darwin in Lichfield’s Beacon Park, a commission which led to him meeting Princess Anne when she visited the park this year.