Burntwood Family History Group
   Home      Journal 2018 01-03 Volume 26 Number 1
Extracts from Burntwood Family History Group Journal
Jan - March 2017
Vol 26.1
Contents of this issue.
View From the Chair -1
Burntwood Town Council Grant Aid - 2
Still Quiet on the Western Front - 3
Walking the Beat - 6
Reviews of Talks by Guest Speakers Judy Hubble on ‘Shugborough, a Brief History’ - 8
Ken Knowles on ‘Ken and His Other Hats’ - 10
Vic Vayro - 13
Hilarious Histories - 14
Diary of a Railwayman - 15
This Issue's Cover Photograph - 19
Fascinating Facts About Death - 19
Useful Addresses - 20
Transcriptions on CD Available for Sale - 21
Programme of Speakers Back cover
View From the Chair
It’s a few months now since I stepped into my new role as Chair (chair/chair woman/chair person – how to describe myself – I think Chair is simplest). Steve has taken on the role of Deputy Chair to prop me up when required! I joined the group about four years ago, with the intention of getting better at researching my family history, and I made good progress, especially when visiting Kew for the first time. Then I saw an advert for the talk ‘Grandmother was a Suffragette’ and realised that, as I was already part of this group, I could go along, and I got hooked. We have had some fascinating talks over the last year, and this year’s programme looks equally interesting. I didn’t expect to end up on a trip to the WWI battlefields either, which was the highlight of my year in 2017. I had discovered some years ago that I had an uncle named on the Thiepval memorial, and it was a very special moment for me to see this. For me it was the best holiday ever, thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish, and I was not the only one who would have got straight onto another coach and set off all over again.
The group continues to grow and prosper, with new initiatives moving us forwards: We have moved the research night from Thursdays to Mondays thinking that people were less likely to have commitments on Mondays, judging by attendance at the talks, and this seems to have been a success. The memorial project, led by Pam, is continuing, and it looks as if it will come to a natural conclusion. an overhaul of the web page, being organised by Alan, Keith and Chris. a great list of speakers for 2018, organised by Jane Leake (who is still looking for an apprentice). So I am really looking forward to a great 2018 for us all. Helen Bratton, Chair, BFHG, 2017–2018
Burntwood Town Council Grant Aid

Last year we applied to the Grant Aid Scheme for the cost of an annual subscription to Ancestry.co.uk, which we were successful in getting. Members of BFHG were accessing Ancestry.co.uk at no cost to themselves via their annual subscription to the group. This, along with changing our research evenings to the fourth Monday from the fourth Thursday of each month, has resulted in a much improved attendance. Which one has had the most impact, we are not sure. We were recently informed that our latest application to the Burntwood Town Council Grant Aid Scheme was successful, and I attended the presentation evening, where I received a cheque to cover a further year’s subscription to Ancestry.co.uk. This should enable us to build on the success of last year, and offer members something extra at no additional cost.

As our attendances have increased substantially, the upstairs IT Suite in the Old Mining College is being used to near capacity. You can, however, bring your own laptops or tablets and still access Ancestry via the internal Wi-Fi there. We look forward to seeing more of our members old and new on research evenings.Steve Bailey, Vice-Chair, BFHG 2017–2018
Still Quiet on the Western Front by Sheila Clarke

Concluding Sheila’s account of the visit in May 2017 by members of the Burntwood Family History Group to Flanders, the area of Belgium and France over which Germany and the Allies fought during WWI. 24th May 2017 Today we visited the northern part of France, looking at countryside over which the Battle of Loos took place between September 25th and October 13th, 1915. More than 61,000 British soldiers were killed or injured. It was the largest battle in which the British participated in that year. It  was also the first time the British used poison gas, and it was a baptism of fire for ‘Kitchener’s Army’ units. Although on the first day the British captured the town of Loos, the advantage was lost because of ammunition and communication problems. The poison gas was ineffective, with some blowing over British troops, who had sometimes removed their masks because of the masks’ inefficient design. Artillery had failed to cut through the German wire in some places, and the British were mown down as they advanced over open ground. By the time reinforcements arrived, the Germans had regrouped and repulsed the advance. The Loos memorial covers the side and back wall at the Dud Corner cemetery. Here, over 20,000 soldiers are commemorated. They were killed in the area between the first day of the battle and the end of the war, but have no known grave. The cemetery contains the graves of British and Commonwealth soldiers, both known and ‘known only to God’. It was poignant to see two or three headstones joined together – an indication that, because the soldiers could not be differentiated after death, they were buried with headstones conjoined. Whilst visiting Arras we were reminded by Peter that the town, although looking like it must have done in the 18th and 19th centuries, was so damaged during WWI that 75% needed rebuilding after the Armistice. The Arras memorial, along with recording names of 36,000 missing, has memorials to the Royal Flying Corps and other flying services. Behind is the Military cemetery, which contains nearly 3,000 graves. I found that one of the most interesting places we visited was the Wellington Tunnels Museum, part of a labyrinth under Arras town itself. Underground quarries had been mined there in the 16th and 17th centuries. The German artillery positions on high ground during WWI constantly bombarded the town, so the allies decided to utilise the tunnels and extend them to provide shelter for their troops before a proposed assault on the German lines.

Almost 20 kilometres of passages were added by New Zealand and British miners, joining up the original quarries. They dug actual rooms and extended the dig towards the German lines. The spoil removed was carefully distributed, and this went unseen by German aircraft. Electric light, a light railway, latrines, bathing areas, kitchens and sleeping areas were constructed. There was even a hospital. Signposts were needed and sections were named after New Zealand and British towns – hence ‘Wellington’, the section we were shown. For a week before the offensive, they housed up to 24,000 British and Commonwealth troops. The tunnels gave allied troops protection advancing to the front line. The British assault began around 5 am on 9th April, 1917, the day after Easter Sunday, after heavy bombardment on the German lines during previous days. It had been snowing, with the snow blowing towards German trenches. They were taken by surprise, and the British made advances of three miles in some places. The month of fighting ended in stalemate, at appalling human cost. The British had 158,000 casualties, and the Germans around 120,000. The most successful advance of the battle was that of the combined Canadian Forces who captured Vimy Ridge, led by Julian Byng and Arthur Currie (a Canadian whose planning of the assault was meticulous). Each soldier was issued with a map and drilled in the tactics to be used. It is said that the success at Vimy, although the casualties were many, defined Canada as an emerging nation. It was one of the major achievements of the war, and the Germans never retook this high ground. When visiting the outstanding Canadian memorial, designed by Canadian Sculptor Walter Seymour Allward, we could see how strategic Vimy Ridge was. The tender sculpture of Mother Canada mourning her dead sons is visible from many parts of the plain below.

25th May 2017 Another early start for our journey to the Somme, a battle named after the area, not the river. At the town of Peronne, we visited the excellent Historial de la Grande Guerre Museum, housed in the 13th century castle. The museum gave an overview not only of the battle of the Somme, but of the whole war and its effect on all countries taking part. Uniforms of the different armies were laid out under glass in the floor. We saw how the bright, more ceremonial type, uniforms were soon abandoned for dress suited for trench warfare. Alongside were the differing mementoes that a soldier might carry. It gave us some insight into how Germany’s reason for going to war was entirely different from the Allies and, as the war staggered on, how sentiments on each home front changed. We then walked through the trees at Delville Wood, known as Devil’s Wood by the soldiers of the British Empire who fought German troops over this ground. The battle of Deville Wood was a series of engagements which began on 15th July 1916 and continued until 3rd September. As in other battles, there was considerable loss of life on both sides. It was here that the South African Brigade fought their deadliest battle. They held their ground until reinforcements arrived 4

six days later. The Memorial, and an exhibition explaining the South African part in the war, is nearby. There are no names of the missing, as these are included on memorials to soldiers of the United Kingdom. Most of the trees in Deville Wood were destroyed by artillery during the battle, but one hornbeam survived and has continued to grow since. It can be seen towards the back of the left hand side of the memorial, and still has shards of metal in its trunk. We were able to explore some of the original German and British trenches at Newfoundland Park, named for the 29th division of the Newfoundland Regiment. July 1st 1916 – the first day of the Somme offensive – saw 800 men of the regiment ready for their first encounter with the enemy at BeaumontHamel. A huge Hawthorn mine was due to be detonated, simultaneous with their attack, at 7.30 am. Unfortunately, the mine was detonated ten minutes early, giving the German lines ample time to prepare for the assault. Of the 780 men who were ordered to advance, only 110 remained unscathed. A striking bronze of a caribou is the memorial to Newfoundlanders who were killed there. There is also a memorial to the 51st Highland division. Sixteen mines were detonated under German lines at the start of battle in July 1916. After the war, farmers wanted to restore their farms so, over time, many craters were filled. In 1979, Richard Dunning purchased a crater, the largest on the Western front, in order to preserve the site. Royal Engineers tunnelled under the German stronghold near La Boiselle and laid a charge of 60,000 lbs. The crater, which we were able to walk around, is about 300 feet across and 90 feet deep, and it is said that the debris rose 5,000 feet in the air. We were told by the volunteers who look after the site that the tunnels dug by the British to lay the charge are still there, but are only high enough to crawl through. Our last stop of the day was at the majestic Thiepval Memorial. It commemorates 73,000 of those who died on the Somme and have no known grave. Books giving the names of the missing can be consulted in French or English. While we explored the memorial, a Frenchman in a kilt played a lament on the pipes. Perhaps Germany might have won the war with deeper pockets. Their troops took up strategic positions on high ground in Flanders and France before the Allies arrived. They started most battles from this advantage but, over time, they ran out of money. Their citizens became short of food and, after America declared war on Germany, fresh troops were committed to the Allied cause. The terms imposed after the Armistice caused deep-seated resentment in Germany and sowed the seed for a resumption of hostilities in 1939. To see where so many lost their lives was an overwhelming experience. Throughout the coach journey through the battlefields and our journey home we had two hard-working friendly drivers, Steve and Dee, who also served us welcome snacks and alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. We enjoyed perfect weather for the tour, too, which was a bonus.
Walking the Beat by Pam Turner

My great-grandfather, Alfred Haycock, joined Walsall Police Force as a Constable in 1892 at the age of 21, and by May 1899 had been promoted to Sergeant, followed by promotion to Inspector in 1908. Recently I have written about some of the cases that Alfred had to deal with while he was the Inspector in charge at Bloxwich Police Station during WWI. However, I have now found some old newspaper articles from his early years as a Police Constable, walking the beat in and around Walsall. The following transcriptions (in italics) date from 1894 to 1896:
OBSTRUCTION (December 19th 1894) Police-constable Haycock deposed to an obstruction being caused in Park Street on Tuesday week by Josiah Wedge, 3 Long Street, Harry Glover, Seven Stars, Stafford Street; Charley Reynolds, 28 New Street, and John Bowden, 115 Bridgeman Street, and each, with the exception of Harry Glover, who was discharged, was mulct in a fine of 2s 6d and costs or seven days imprisonment.
I have to admit I had never heard the word ‘mulct’ before, and had to look it up to find out its meaning, which is ‘to impose a fine upon’. I am not sure if the word is still used today, but I certainly have a new word to add to my vocabulary! LEGAL BEGGING (February 23rd 1895)
On Sunday afternoon P.C Haycock was on duty in the Mellish Road when he saw four men with a couple of collecting boxes calling at the houses in that thoroughfare and soliciting arms from the residents and also from passers by. He spoke to them and asked them to accompany him to the Police Station. One, Thomas Kelly (25), labourer, back of Blue Lane East, said he would go if the others would, but on their declining he also refused. Haycock thereupon arrested him and he went quietly. In answer to Mr Loxton, the officer said that Kelly had lived in Walsall all his life, and was now out of work through the frost. Mr Loxton said that undoubtedly the begging was a great nuisance in the town, the Vagrancy Act aimed only at “professionalism” and there was really no case against the prisoner. The Bench accordingly discharged him. 6
THE GAMBLING SPIRIT (2nd March 1895) Six youths, named respectively William Barrows (18), and Ernest Barrows (14), Holly Hedge Lane; James Lawrence (16), Hospital Street; Thomas Fellows (16), Hospital Street, and John Vincent (16), were charged with having played pitch and toss in Marlow Street, on Sunday the 17th ult. Police constables Alfred Haycock and Robinson proved the charges, and each defendant was fined 1s and 3s 7d costs. THROWING STONES (23rd March 1895) John Sanders (13) 34, Thorpe Road, when charged by Police-constable Haycock with having thrown stones in Thorpe Road on Sunday, the 10th instant, appeared very penitent, and was cautioned and discharged
ALLEGED CRUELTY TO A CAT (October 10th 1896) John Jones (16) 21 Wolverhampton Street was summoned for having cruelly ill treated a cat by urging a dog to worry it. Inspector Rouane, of the Birmingham Society for the prevention of Cruelty to Animals, prosecuted. Eliza Jeffries of Tantarra Street, and Selina Smith, gave evidence and Police-constable 38 (Haycock) said that when he spoke to defendant he said “No one saw it start, so you have no evidence against me except myself”. Defendant called his father and William Naylor and the case was dismissed.SABBATH STREET CRIES (October 10th 1896) Samuel Smith, a Peal Street ice-cream dealer, who in his efforts to attract custom, pays no regard to the rules for order and decency enjoined by the corporation. On Sunday afternoon he was heard by Police-constable Haycock to shout eleven times within four minutes in Long Street. He admitted the offence, and was fined 5s and costs. FOOTBALL IN THE STREETS (November 28th 1896) Thomas Anslow (14), and William Broomhall (14) of Hospital Street, and Charles Bert Done (13), of the Yew Tree Inn, Ryecroft, were charged with playing football in Stafford Street. – Detective Haycock proved having found the boys kicking a ball of rags near St Peter’s Church, charging each other, and making a great noise. Fined 2s 6d each without costs. It is amazing how trivial some of the ‘crimes’ are! I really do wonder what he would think if he were around today.

Reviews of Talks by Guest Speakers Reviewer: Sheila Clarke
November 2017: Judy Hubble on ‘Shugborough, a Brief History’
Judy Hubble worked at Shugborough Hall at Great Haywood when the estate was managed by the County Council. It was handed back to the National Trust in 2016, and 90 former employees, including Judy, were made redundant. The National Trust is, financially, in a better position to ensure that the fabric of the house is maintained in good order. However, Judy pointed out that now the public have access to less than half of the property than was formerly the case. Before she left Shugborough, Judy was able to take photographs of rooms and exhibits which are no longer shown, and we had the pleasure of seeing these, together with Judy’s wealth of knowledge of the subject. Judy gives two separate talks on the history of the estate and the people who lived there. The first, which we heard, was from mediaeval times until the early 20th century. The early estate was owned by the Bishops of Lichfield. On the dissolution of the monasteries, Henry VIII gave the estate to William Paget. The early house was modest, compared with what we see today. There is a knoll in the grounds, on which the original house may have stood as a moated Manor. The land belonging to the house in those days consisted of 85 acres which, at times, was liable to flooding, and fish and game were abundant. In the late 16th Century, the Earl of Essex, who lived in nearby Chartley Castle and enjoyed hunting, built a ‘packhorse’ bridge over the nearby River Trent, in order to reach the hunting grounds. The bridge originally had 40 arches, of which 14 still survive. The estate passed through several hands until 1624, when it was purchased by William Anson, a local lawyer. He was the ancestor of the Earls of Lichfield, and the estate remained in the family for 300 years. In 1695, the old house was demolished by his grandson William Anson (1656–1720), and a brick house constructed. The Anson family were free thinkers and believed that their daughters, as well as their sons, should have a good education. His eldest son Thomas (1695– 1773), fell out with the Tory party when it was proposed that it should be made compulsory to attend church. He became MP for Lichfield, the first Whig MP in Staffordshire. He had undertaken the Grand Tour and had fallen in love with Italy. Italianate influences can be seen throughout the house, both in its design and furnishing. He demolished 32 inferior estate workers’ houses and built better homes for them. Thomas sold the family business, built the house, which was basically the house we can see today, and purchased more land around the property. Much of the money for this came from his brother George Anson (1697–1762). Judy feels that George was one of the most interesting members of the Anson family. At the age of 14, George travelled to Chatham and joined the Navy. At 19, he had risen to acting captain, and became a captain by the age of 22. In 1739, at a time when most of the countries of Europe were at war with each other, George II sent him with a squadron of eight ships to harass the Spanish navy and, if possible, capture some of the Inca gold the Spanish were bringing from Peru. George left England with 1,200 men but, by the time they reached Cape Horn, the stormy season was upon them, one ship was lost, and two had to turn back. Anson’s own ship, the Centurion, was badly damaged. Once in the Pacific, they made two failed attempts at capturing Spanish ships. The shot had been too low and the ships sank, taking the booty into the depths. The men were all in a very bad way, with many losses. Suffering from dysentery and scurvy, they still managed to harry and blockade some of the Spanish ports. After a stay on the island of Tinian, the few men left recovered from scurvy by eating breadfruit, and drinking clean water cured the dysentery. By this time, only the Centurion was seaworthy. Anson had almost given up searching for the elusive Inca gold when a Spanish galleon was spotted wallowing in the South China Sea. The Centurion, with a crew far smaller than that on the galleon, decided to attack. They shot down the sails and rigging of the heavily laden galleon and took control. The galleon was towed into Canton and the Spanish crew released. This generous gesture raised Anson’s reputation around the world. The gold was transferred to the Centurion and Anson sold the enemy ship, as he did with ships he had captured during his career. He asked the mayor of Canton if he could provide the Centurion with provisions, but the mayor said that, as they had plenty of gold, they should eat that! One night, however, a fire threatened to destroy the dock area. The Centurion’s crew put out the fire. Not only did the mayor supply the ship with provisions, he also gave Anson a 208piece dinner service with a central motif of a breadfruit tree and scenes of the voyage around the rim. This service is displayed at Shugborough. George Anson’s share of the gold and the money he amassed during his voyages made him extremely wealthy. This enabled him to give his brother money to enhance the exterior and interior of Shugborough. George Anson married Lady Elizabeth Yorke in 1748. He became an MP and First Lord of the Admiralty. The couple remained childless, Elizabeth dying in 1758, and on George’s death in 1760, his fortune passed to his brother Thomas. Thomas had never married and, on his death, the Shugborough estate passed to their sister’s son George, who changed his surname to Anson. However, George’s son Thomas, the 1st Earl of Lichfield, managed to gamble away the immense wealth he had inherited. In 1842, the house in London and the entire contents of Shugborough were sold at auction, raising just enough to stave off creditors. Thomas and his wife went to live abroad. The estate was left to his son, Thomas George Anson (1825–1892), 2nd Earl of Lichfield and third Anson MP for Lichfield. He and his wife, Lady Harriet, daughter of the Earl of Abercorn, were Methodist and teetotal, and they started to restore the family fortune. Their son Thomas Francis (1856–1918) finally paid off the debts and mortgage, though it took the whole of his life. Judy Hubble’s history of Shugborough, together with photographs of the house, the beautiful grounds, and pictures of the Anson family, made many of us realise what a gem we have on our doorstep. There may be some members of our group whose ancestors worked on the estate, even if we do not have titled connections!
February 2018: Ken Knowles on ‘Ken and His Other Hats’
Ken Knowles is well known to us as the present town crier for Lichfield, a position which he will hold until he wishes to pass on the position, and his town crier’s hat, to another person in the future. The talk this evening centred on his early life, and how hats have enabled him to overcome the almost crippling shyness he suffered as a child and a young adult. On the table in front of him he placed several hats of different styles. Attired in his full regalia, he rang his bell and ‘cried’ about the differences in the expectations and experiences of children today, compared with his childhood. Then, children had fewer toys and relied on their own imagination, instead of on electronic games and the internet. He reminded us of playing outside; kicking the can; hide and seek; British bulldog; what’s the time, Mr. Wolf; and marbles. Each game appeared in season and required minimum expense. Ken was born in Aston, Birmingham, into a family with little money. However, he passed the 11-plus and it was decided that he should go the Bordesley Technical School. Each child leaving primary school had to undergo a medical. It was the first time his mother had come into the school, and Ken was weighed and measured. He was 4 stone 4 lb. and 4ft. 4ins. tall. The young Ken thought that each foot he grew weighed around a stone, and with each stone he put on he would be around a foot taller. Unfortunately, he commented, with the weight he is now, he should be 15ft. tall! The doctor at the medical opened the pages of a very large book. The page he showed to Ken was covered with a pattern of dots. He asked Ken what number he could see. Although Ken could not see a number, he had always been told to make a guess so said ‘74’. The doctor laughed and said that was not the number, and that Ken was colour-blind. This came as no surprise to his mother, as his grandfather and brother also had the condition. The revelation explained the problems he encountered at his primary school, particularly in Mr. Babington’s class. Mr Babington was a strict disciplinarian. He would strut up and down between the rows of children. At the back of the room was the store cupboard in which hung the dreaded cane. One day Mr. Babington asked the class, ‘what colour is a baby deer?’ Mr. Babington pointed to Ken and said he should know, as it was the same colour as his jumper. Ken looked down at the well-worn often washed and mended jumper which his auntie had bought for him from the local rag alley. Ken took a guess and replied ‘brown’, eliciting laughter from the class, and his other guesses of ‘green’ and ‘khaki’ produced the same response. Ken was mortified when they laughed at him, coloured up and wished he could disappear. The teacher, thinking him impudent, produced the cane. Mr. Davis, however, was the teacher who inspired him to become a primary school teacher himself. Ken was given the task of paint monitor. This involved getting ready the room set aside for crafts. Desks had to be moved and covered with newspapers, and paint trays replenished with solid round blocks of colour. To Ken, the blocks were different shades ranging from black to white, but he thought that was how everyone saw them. He had been to the cinema that week and had seen a newsreel of Prince Philip dressed in a white uniform, complete with a plumed pith helmet. He decided that this was a picture he would paint that day. He turned his paper from landscape to portrait and painted. When he finished, he took his picture to show Mr. Davis. He explained he had painted Prince Philip in the white uniform he had worn when he had represented the Queen abroad. Mr. Davis praised his work and then asked Ken why he had painted the uniform pink. Ken was puzzled; to him, the uniform was white. He realised later that what had happened – the red was next to the white, and a fellow pupil must have failed to clean their brush before using the white.Mr. Davis was Welsh and, instead of reading a story at the end of the day, would lead the class in singing. Ken had a good voice and enjoyed learning many songs. He was one of a small group of children from the school who were chosen to be part of the massed school choir singing at the Birmingham Town Hall. The boys taking part were told that they should wear a white shirt, a tie, and black trousers, and the girls a white blouse and black skirt. Ken realised that he did not have a white shirt, a tie, or black trousers. There was no time to ask his auntie, who replenished Ken’s clothes from the rag market, to sort out the required garments. Improvisation was the order of the day. He was obliged to wear a blouse of his sister’s, a pair of grey trousers which his mother told him had once been black, and a tie of his father’s which almost reached his knees. Ken said at least the tie hid the fact that the buttons on the blouse fastened on the ‘wrong’ side. There were no girls at Bordesley Technical School, which pleased Ken because he was so shy. There was one drawback, however. He did not join the drama group; being small and fair, he dreaded being chosen to play a girl in a school play. Ken went to Teacher Training College in Poulton Le Fylde, Lancashire. The Head of English, Mr. Suffolk, thrust a piece of paper in front of Ken and asked him to read the poem out loud. He began; ‘He grabbed me round my slender neck, and put his lips around my mouth’. Ken was alarmed as to what was next but read on, not wishing to object; he soon realised that the piece was only about drinking a bottle of beer. Mr. Suffolk commended him for reading without hesitation, but said that he was going to recommend that Ken had speech therapy with a Miss Manifold. She had a voice like a loud Margaret Rutherford, and soon ironed out Ken’s Birmingham accent. He remarked that the students who had to have speech therapy were the ones with regional accents, except those who came from Lancashire! He eventually got out of speech therapy by joining the Dramatic Society. One evening, Ken heard Michael Parkinson interviewing Ronnie Barker, and asked Ronnie how he was able to portray so many different characters. Ronnie said it was the shoes; he considered what shoes his character would wear and that enabled him to get into character. Ken realised that it would be imagining which hat his character would favour which would get him into the role.bKen put on a hat from the table, reminiscent of an old fashioned sailor, which he portrayed while a member of the Whittingham Drama and Music Society. For this role, he commandeered wooden crutches, a frock coat, eye patch, stuffed parrot, and the hat. He immersed himself in the role. He entered through the auditorium, pretending he had only one leg, and delivering the first of his lines. On reaching the stage, he encountered a major problem. There were steps on to the stage. How to negotiate them on one leg? By hoisting himself up with the aid of the crutches, all went well until the last step. Disaster struck and he fell onto the stage. Unable to get himself up with ‘only one leg’, he completed his lines from the prone position, amid laughter and applause from the audience. The audience laughing with him put paid to Ken’s shyness. It went so well that he was asked to deliver his lines the same way at the other performances of the play. On donning the other hats on display, Ken entered into the personae of wellloved characters. The first was Rob Wilton of ‘The Day War Broke Out’ fame. A boater was used to conjure up Arthur Lowe, whose most famous roles were Leonard Swindley in Coronation Street, and the pompous commander and bank manager, Captain Mainwaring in Dad’s Army. Ken commented that Arthur Lowe’s funeral took place at Sutton Coldfield Crematorium. Ken said that one of the favourite comedians of his childhood was Stanley Holloway, particularly his monologue of ‘The Battle of Hastings’ and, after putting on a Norman helmet, he gave us a rendition of the poem. Ken entered his teaching career at Norton Canes Junior School, ‘the Wooden School’. He said that the knowledge and common sense of some of the children in his class at that time was sadly lacking. On the first school walk he undertook, one child pointed to birds on a lake and shouted, ‘Look, penguins’! Many of us remember Ken’s talk last year when he told us about his role as Lichfield town crier, and the competitions he has undertaken. The talk this evening was no less entertaining and amusing.
Vic Vayro
Vic was a founder member of Burntwood Family History Group, being the eleventh person to sign up at our first meeting in July 1986. He was a very friendly person, and interested in anything to do with the Burntwood and Chasetown area. He was always happy to help people, and gave one or two talks to the members in the early days. His most lasting contribution was checking our financial accounts prior to the AGM and checking their accuracy. He did this every year meticulously up to 2016. We shall find it very difficult to replace him. We were very distressed to hear about his accident when out cycling, and his subsequent death from his injuries. His funeral, held at St. Anne’s Church, Chasetown, was very well attended by representatives from all the organisations he supported over the years including several members of BFHG. He had many friends anxious to support the family at this sad time. We sent our commiserations to his family on behalf of the Group.
Hilarious Histories - You really couldn’t make some of these up!
Robert Liston, Doctor And Accidental Murderer Robert Liston is said to have carried out an 1847 surgical amputation so quickly that he cut off his assistant’s fingers as well. A spectator is said to have died of shock and both the assistant and the patient died of sepsis. Liston remains the only person to kill three people in the course of one operation!
Hartlepool Hangs a Monkey The citizens of Hartlepool used to be known as ‘monkey hangers’. During the Napoleonic Wars, a French ship was wrecked and the only survivor, a pet monkey, swam to shore. The locals thought it was a French spy and strung it up.
Caesar Was Ransomed For Too Little Money Julius Caesar was kidnapped by pirates in his early career. He laughed at their initial ransom, saying it was too little, and told them to increase it. He also told them once it was paid, he would track them down and kill them. They didn’t take him seriously. After it was paid, he found them and crucified the whole crew!
If You Have To Go To War, Go With Leichtenstein Famously, in 1866, the army of Liechtenstein went to join the Austro-Prussian War. Eighty men marched out of the country and, well, 81 returned. Nobody had been hurt and they made a friend on the way home!
The Journey Of The Giant Tortoise Was Shorter Than Expected When Charles Darwin and his team found the giant tortoises of the Galapagos, they sent some home. None of the creatures made it back to England alive, though; the crew decided to eat them on the journey.

They Couldn’t Hit An Elephant But Could Hit A General “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance.” These were the last words of General John Sedgwick in the American Civil War, just before he was shot dead...

Diary of a Railwayman Extracts from the 1896 diary of George Henry Beardsmore, 1860–1950 by Jenny Yates

When he wrote his 1896 diary, George Henry Beardsmore was living with his family at 93 Trent Valley Road in Lichfield and working as Railway Signalman at Vulcan Road Signal Box, Lichfield. He was born in Rugeley in 1860, and married his second wife Alice Maiden in 1894 in King’s Norton. Together they had four children: William, Harold, Beatrice and Leonard. George also had five children – Arthur, Agnes, Annie, Louisa and Alice – with his first wife Louisa Keeling, who he married at St Michael’s Church, Brereton, in 1885. Louisa died in December 1891, giving birth to the couple’s youngest daughter Alice.
Saturday 18 January
Brother Herbert married. Engine off rails in front of box. Went to Rugeley this day, brought new boots back. Sunday 19 January Splendid day, sunshine, went walk with Alice and baby. Aunt Sarah waiting for us, told us she was appointed Matron of Women’s Hospital. All of us very pleased at better prospects for her. Went church at night. Wednesday 22 January Death of Prince Henry of Battenberg announced in Argus, died on board ship from fever. {Prince Henry was the husband of Princess Beatrice, Queen Victoria’s fifth daughter and youngest child. He died of malaria aboard HMS Blonde off the coast of Sierra Leone.} Thursday 23 January Our Lulu {Louisa Elizabeth Beardsmore, born 8 August 1890} took poorly this afternoon after coming from school; she is very hot and feverish, complains of her head. Friday 24 January Lulu no better, unable to eat anything, continually asking for drink, had very bad night with her. 15
Saturday 25 January
Doctor said it was fever and made an order for her to be sent to hospital at Curborough. Van came at 3 o’clock, Alice went with her. Hope she will soon be at home again. Rained nearly all day, but very mild.
Monday 27 January
Arthur and Annie {Arthur Henry Beardsmore, born 1886, and Annie Eliza Beardsmore, born 1889} got to stay away from school a fortnight owing to fever. Someone broke into Carwardine Box last night. Johnson bought pig, 24/{one pound four shillings}.
Tuesday 28 January
Went to Curborough again this morning to enquire after Lulu. Arthur went too. Mrs Mann said she was going on nicely now, got over the worst, but that she had been very ill, indeed only one case worse. Hope she will soon be at home again. Rained nearly all day, but very mild.
Thursday 30 January
Got bad cold and feel out of sorts. Johnson bought another pig, 24/-.
Saturday 1 February
Went to Burton today to see football match between Sheffield United and Burton Wanderers cup-tie; result a draw, one each, a loose, uninteresting game, much disappointed. Sheffield should just have won on the day’s play. Not been to Burton for about 12 years previously, bought enamelled tea can 1/3 and iron feet for shoe repairs 1/6. Cup tie Derby County v Aston Villa 4-2.
Thursday 6 February
Alice, with Arthur and Annie, went to see Lulu at hospital, found her fairly well and on the way to robust health again.
Sunday 9 February
Glorious morning, warm as June. Went to St Michael’s with Annie. In afternoon, Alice and I, with baby in carriage, went to see Lulu, taking her some oranges, biscuits, etc.
Tuesday 11 February
Mr Ratcliffe, Stationmaster, was today presented with umbrella and walking stick as a mark of esteem by all members of station staff.
Sunday 16 February
Went to see Lulu again this afternoon, she seems to be getting on very well now, has been in hospital 3 weeks, and expect they will keep her in 3 more. Went to church at night.
Wednesday 26 February
Frosty morning again. This is polling day, the candidates are Major Darwin and T. C. T. Warner. Wednesday 26 February
Mild morning. Result of poll: Darwin 3955, Warner 4483. {In the 1895 General Election, Henry Fulford won the Lichfield Constituency for the Liberal Party, defeating the Liberal Unionist candidate Leonard Darwin by just 44 votes. This result was declared void in December 1895 and a by-election was held, which was won for the Liberal Party by Sir Thomas Courtenay Theydon Warner.}
Saturday 29 February Wet all day, went with Arthur and fetched our Lulu home. She was pleased to come. Saturday 7 March Accident occurred at Rugeley, the 10.15 a.m. goods train from Rugby being shunted on Branch and the rear of train collided with some coaches which stood foul. Did lot of damage to rolling stock and permanent ways. Signalman suspended one week.
{Extract from 13 March 1896 edition of the Lichfield Mercury} A TRAIN OFF THE LINE On Saturday afternoon a goods train from Rugeley came in to collision with a train of empty coaches which was standing on the line at the Trent Valley Junction. Damage was caused to the extent of three or four hundred pounds, but no one was hurt. The main line was blocked for a short time and the Cannock line for about three hours. The signalman at the junction box has been suspended, and an enquiry will be held.
Sunday 8 March
On duty at crossing all day.
Thursday 12 March
Killed pig this morning, one of two I bought at Smithfield 8 weeks last Monday at 25/each, had done first rate.
Wednesday 18 March
Fine day after several quiet ones. Sowed my onions this day, sowed a little over 2 ounces.
Thursday 19 March
Nice bright day. Sowed two packets of cauliflowers today.
Friday 3 April
This is Good Friday, fine day but dull, went to work 6.00 a.m. Managed to get done at 12.15 p.m., did a little gardening at home in afternoon.
Monday 4 May
Commenced my holidays today, went to Birmingham King’s Heath.
Tuesday 5 May
Went to Chester and found Chamberlains after some amount of trouble. They are all well except Will who has been at home 6 weeks with pleurisy and is just getting around again, but looks very pale. Mrs C did not look very well; Tom as usual.
Wednesday 6 May
Finish up of holidays, had fine weather all the time and very hot too. Came back home tonight.
Whit-Monday 25 May

Had a lot of visitors today. Great quantity of people at the Bower, weather fine but dull and cool wind; all visitors went back at night.
This Issue’s Cover Photograph Windmill Cottage, Upper Longdon, Staffs. Photograph: Alan Betts
The windmill at Upper Longdon is a brick tower mill converted into a house. The windmill was first mentioned in 1806 and was completed by 1810. In the early 19th century, the windmill centrepiece of this unique property was the corn mill for the Marquis of Anglesey’s Beaudesert Estate. However, it ceased to be a working mill towards the end of the 19th century, and it was converted to a house with attached mill cottage around 1900. In 1973, the tower was converted into a house called Cosy Cottage by the addition of a circular brick bungalow around the base The current circular bungalow dates from 1973. The property commands breathtaking views towards the spires of Lichfield Cathedral, in land totalling around 100 acres. Since this photograph was taken, a couple of years ago, the windmill’s sails have been restored to their former glory, which makes this possibly the only windmill in Staffordshire to be in such a condition.
Fascinating Facts About Death
Admit it... you were just dying to know some of these!

Left-handed people die, on average, three years earlier than right-handed people
Doctors’ sloppy handwriting kills more than 7,000 people annually.
Mount Everest has about 200 dead bodies on it, which are now landmarks on the way to the top!
Sharks kill 12 people per year, while humans kill 11,417 sharks per hour! The Greek Stoic philosopher Chrysippus is said to have died from laughter after a donkey ate his figs, and he suggested that the donkey wash it down with some wine.
35 million of your cells die every minute!

Some family trees have beautiful leaves, and some have just a bunch of nuts. Remember, it is the nuts that make the tree worth shaking. (author unknown)

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