Burntwood Family History Group
   Home      Journal 2004 08 Volume 12 Number 4
Extracts from Burntwood Family History Group Journal
August 2004     
     Vol. 12 No. 4
  Contents of this issue.
News from the Secretary
Forthcoming Attractions
A Question of Paternity
Evan Evans and the Poor Law
Ancestral Snippets (Pelsall Boys School Log Book)
Computer Frustration and Relief
It’s All Relative
Arising from Coal Dust (Part 4)
National Burial Index
News from the Secretary

Annual General Meeting

The Group’s AGM will be on Monday 13th September at the Old Mining College in Queen Street, Chasetown. Any member wishing to put forward a resolution for consideration at the AGM, or to propose someone for election to the Committee or one of the group’s offices, should contact the Chairman, Stan Fussell, so that it can be placed on the Agenda. The AGM is mainly for formal business, presentation of Annual Reports and Accounts and election of Committee and officers. It is important that anything other than the formal business of the meeting should be notified in advance of the meeting – not raised from the floor. All members are asked to try to attend the AGM, and anyone who is prepared to serve the group in any capacity should be ready to accept nomination if their name is put forward.
Membership numbers are allocated in a continuous sequence, but those outside the local area who are not normally able to attend our meetings are prefixed with a ‘1’. From the fact that our latest membership number is 1346, it can be deduced that since the group was founded in 1986 we have had over 350 subscribed members. Our present membership stands at around 100 (including several ‘Family’ memberships where two people share the same number. If just 50 per cent of our membership were to turn up for a meeting at the same time, the permitted capacity of our meeting room would be exceeded – but it would be nice to have it happen!

Coach Trip to London

The last coach trip in May was only just viable at the current cost of £12.00 per person. Please add your name to the booking sheet which is placed on the table at each of the meetings, and pay by cheque at the earliest convenient time. Cheques should be handed or sent to Pam Woodburn. Non-members of the group are welcome to join us on these coach trips, and anyone not doing family history research can be dropped off and picked up in Central London at a point convenient for shopping and sightseeing.

Refreshments at meetings

For the last eight months or so we have been grateful to Joy Blackmore and Ann Wheeler for their work in the kitchen on Mondays. We are still reliant on ‘self-service’ at the Thursday meetings, but thanks are due to several people who have assisted in the provision of this service. Volunteers to continue to provide refreshments at the Monday meetings are urgently required. The Committee decided towards the end of 2003 that this chore should not be imposed on anyone for more than six months, so you can volunteer without letting yourself in for a permanent job! This is a service to members which can only be given if someone is prepared to do it, and it will cease (as has happened with the bookstall and fiche hire scheme) if no one takes it on.

Fiche and Reader Hire Scheme

The system which we set up many years ago, when the Group purchased the 1988 IGI and a couple of fiche readers, was very well used up until two or three years ago, when much more information started to become available in digital form on the Internet or CD-ROM. We still have a number of fiche readers – Standard Type, Briefcase and Mini – which can be borrowed by members, along with microfiches of the 1881 Census, IGI and many local parish registers, etc. for £1.00. However, because the Committee cannot find a volunteer to keep some of the readers and microfiches at home and keep records of borrowings, the scheme cannot be operated. Members who attend the Thursday meetings are still able to use the facilities free of charge, and those who take part in the group’s Transcription Project usually have a reader on permanent loan for their transcription work. There is therefore no need for an enormous amount of space for storage, as the majority of the fiches are kept at the Mining College and most of the readers (we have 11 all told) are kept by transcribers. Could I appeal once again for someone to take on the operation of the scheme?

Computers and CD-ROMs

On Thursdays it is now possible for members to use our desktop computer to access the Internet free of charge through the Local Area Network (LAN) which has been set up at the Mining College, and to use the Group’s laptop computer to search our CD‑ROM and floppy disc library. The Committee have authorised ongoing expenditure for the purchase of Census and other information on CD; mainly this is restricted to the local area Counties of Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Derbyshire, but there are also some national records (the Burial Index, some of Boyd’s Marriage Index etc.). If there is enough demand from members, this could be extended further in the near future. Pauline Stanley is custodian of the Digital Library and can provide you with a list of resources that can be searched at the Thursday meetings, some of which can also be borrowed for a small charge between meetings.

Archive CD Books

You may have noticed, in the centre of your Journal, an advertisement for this company, which is producing many of the recently acquired CDs mentioned previously. As a service to the company and to our members, anything which is in their catalogue may be ordered through the group. If you see any item in their list which is outside our local area but which you might consider purchasing for your own use, have a word with Harold Haywood, our Treasurer, and he will place an order for you on discounted terms.

Laminating Service

If you have any requirement for laminated A4 or A3 papers, the group has access to a laminating machine and can arrange for your items to be processed at very reasonable rates. Basically all you will pay for is the pockets themselves, plus a very small charge towards the cost of time and electricity. For further information, contact me on 01543 684 340 or email to gassor@ukonline.co.uk. Out-of-area members may be asked to pay the postage charges for returning their items.


In the last issue of the Journal there were one or two factual errors (yes, I know there were probably others we did not spot), and for these our apologies. One the inside front cover, the Group’s website and email addresses included the component ‘bfug’ which should have been ‘bfhg’ of course. You all spotted that one, didn’t you? But did you notice that the Group’s main meeting had suddenly moved from the ‘2nd Monday’ to the ‘2nd Tuesday’? These errors will have been corrected in this Journal. If you notice an error whilst you are reading your Journal, make a note of it and let me or the Editors know about it.


A number of items of correspondence have arrived on my desk over the past two or three months. These have been placed on the tables at the meetings, but, in case you have not seen them, here is a brief summary:

Mrs. H. Robson, Pinewood, 1, Coed y Bryn, Flint Mountain, Flintshire, CH6 5QP, who is on the committee of the North Wales Family History Fair, writes to invite you to attend the 5th Annual Fair, which is to take place on Saturday 4th September 2004. Further details from the website (www.northwalesfamilvhistorvfair.co.uk), from Mrs Robson at the above address, or email to membsec@clwydfhs.org.uk

Su Vale, Outreach Assistant at the Worcestershire County Record Office, has written to tell us about a Family History Fair to be held at the Whitehouse Hotel, Foregate Street, Worcester from 9.30am to 3.30pm on Saturday 25th September 2004. They are looking for speakers to do 30-minute presentations on any aspect of family history, and for groups like ours to take space for an information display. The BFHG Committee will be considering whether we shall be represented when it meets next early in August, so if anyone in the group would be prepared to give a presentation, have a word with Su Vale to see if they still require people. If so, let me know as soon as possible, so that the Committee is aware when it considers exhibiting on behalf of the group. The telephone number for Su Vale is 01905 766352.

Friends of Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Archive Service (FOSSA) have sent us some leaflets promoting awareness of the Archive Service’s collections and their programme of social events. For further information, go to the website (www.staffordshire.gov.uk/archives) and click on the ‘Friends’ link, or contact Lichfield Record Office on 01543 510720. Copies of the programme leaflet will be on the table at our meetings together with several other informative leaflets.
The latest Newsletter on progress of the National Burial Index Project is very encouraging, as it records that there are now 13.2 million records in the Index – a number increasing every day, due to the sterling efforts of the various coordinators and submitters. The leading counties are Hampshire and Montgomeryshire, with over a million entries each. Staffordshire is well to the fore with 795,000 – the next largest after the million-plus counties. The Newsletter will be on the table for your perusal at meetings. On the Internet, (www.ffhs.org.uk/General/Projects/NBI) or (www.familyhistorybooks.co.uk) will give you further details.

Staffordshire Archive Service Newsletter “From TIME 2 TIME”, Issue 7, Spring and Summer 2004, is on the table at meetings, and contains much information on the work being carried out in our county for the benefit of family historians. Those of you who were at the meeting in June, which was addressed by Thea Randall, will have learned much about the Archive Service in our area of which they were previously unaware (see below).


Our speaker on May 10th was Trevor Antill on the subject of Charles II’s route through the Midlands in 1651. This was one of the delightful talks we have from time to time which have little to do with genealogy, but so much to do with the history of our local area and its wealth of interesting estates and buildings. Trevor’s talk was illustrated by a series of colour slides showing places in Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Staffordshire which were either visited (reputedly, as Trevor was quick to point out – rather like the ‘Queen Elizabeth slept here’ legends) or passed by on the circuitous route followed by the King and his small entourage after the Royalist defeat at the Battle of Worcester. It was quite startling to realise that considerable distances were travelled, mainly on foot and often in the hours of darkness, while the party was trying to elude their persistent enemies, and that those places which did shelter the King from time to time did so at considerable risk to themselves and their families. The story only covered a part of the King’s flight to safety on the continent, so maybe some time in the future we can find a speaker who will take up the story from where Trevor left us – not that far from where it all started at Worcester.
On June 14th we were once again pleased to welcome Thea Randall from Staffordshire Record Office, who always manages to make an hour seem like ten minutes, with her clarity and professionalism of presentation. On this occasion, as she explained at the start of her talk, she was a little taxed in deciding what she could talk to us about that she had not covered in earlier visits, but in the event came up with something quite different and very informative. I have personally listened to Thea talk on various aspects of research sources for family historians, but even so the theme of this latest talk told me much more than I already knew about the Staffordshire Archive Service. To start with, Thea pointed out how fortunate and unique Staffordshire is in its wealth of Archive Centres. In addition to the Record Office at Stafford (all counties have one of these) the service also includes the Stoke-on-Trent Archives, Lichfield Record Office and Burton-upon-Trent Library. The William Salt Library contains many sources which are outside the remit of the official archives, but can be visited for research by arrangement with the Stafford Record Office. Although now in the West Midlands area, there are extensive Archive collections at Wolverhampton, Dudley and Walsall which hold many Staffordshire items. Apart from the standard sources such as parish registers (in addition to the microfilmed registers there are hundreds of printed registers at Stafford), Bishop’s Transcripts and census returns, our local archives contain many other sources of use to genealogists, e.g. Non-conformist registers, Quaker records, electoral registers, wills (Lichfield RO is a mine of information), calendars of prisoners, prison records, workhouse birth registers, a few early (pre-1841) census records and occasionally lists of people and events compiled by local clergymen. Thea’s talk made us all realise how incredibly lucky people whose ancestors came from Staffordshire are when they want to discover their family history.
The July meeting introduced us to another speaker new to our group, Dorothy Inett, with a talk entitled ‘Searching for the True Connection’. Dorothy delighted us with an account of her efforts to track down a former Lady Mayoress of Dudley, whom a Mr Shaw of Ireland (for whom Dorothy was doing other genealogical work) believed was his second cousin. At first, it looked as if the search would prove negative, as the said Mayoress proved to have been born Elizabeth Price, not Shaw or Pearson, which were Mr Shaw’s family names. However, Dorothy was not to be daunted, and dug deeper through a multitude of different sources, from censuses and the St Catherine’s register to newspaper files, electoral registers and trade directories. She eventually confirmed that Elizabeth’s grandmother was indeed named Shaw, and showed that she and Mr Shaw did indeed have common ancestry. A long and convoluted search, but Dorothy showed through us her entertaining talk that persistence really does pay dividends!
Forthcoming Attractions
Our Meetings Secretary, Jane Leake, has been working hard over the last few months to arrange a date for Professor Carl Chinn, the nationally known Birmingham Historian, to come to Burntwood. The visit is now provisionally arranged for18th May 2005, and further details will be announced just as soon as the exact date and venue are decided upon; it may be that we shall have to book a larger hall to accommodate the expected huge interest in this speaker. There are many possible pitfalls still to be negotiated on the way, as Professor Chinn is contracted to the BBC and has to undertake certain projects for them which must take precedence over his personal bookings. However, all being well, it will soon be possible for you to pencil in the date for next year, when we shall undoubtedly be highly entertained by a well-respected and knowledgeable figure on the Midlands history scene. Watch this space!
A Question of Paternity

The following question was raised by someone on Rootsweb...

Would the named father have to give his permission for his name to appear on a birth certificate? And would there have been any legal admission (and possibly a record) of paternity produced at the time of registration? If not, how would the registrar know that the details given were true?

The answer supplied with the question was that, between 1837 and 1875, if a mother informed a registrar of her illegitimate child’s birth and also stated the father’s name, the registrar was able to record it; if not, the space for the father’s name and occupation would be left blank.

This applied until The Registration Act of 1875, which stated: ‘The putative father of an illegitimate child cannot be required as father to give information respecting the birth. The name, surname and occupation of the putative father of an illegitimate child must not be entered except at the joint request of the father and mother; in which case both the father and mother must sign the entry as informants.’

Therefore a man could from that time only be named as the father of an illegitimate child on the birth certificate if he consented and was also present when the birth was registered. The Poor Law Amendment Act (1844) enabled a mother of a child born out of wedlock to apply at Petty Sessions for maintenance from its father. These applications were sent in the form of annual returns to the Clerk of the Peace.

Evan Evans and the Poor Law by Mary Pochin

They cared for their poor in the villages of years ago, and poignant stories can be traced when looking through vestry accounts and Records of Overseers of the Poor.

Five miles south of Leominster is the village of Hope-under-Dinmore, a few cottages nestled under the woods of Dinmore Hill. The Thomas Kington I was researching had an elderly uncle residing in one of the four cottages owned by the Overseers of the Poor, so I was naturally interested in any of the inhabitants of those cottages.

I don’t know how old Evan Evans was, but on 12th May 1801 he explained that he had reared a large family without aid from the parish and now, being old, he was applying for relief. They gave him two shillings a week. Every October the Parish Overseers ordered coal for the poor, and in 1804 they were given 5cwt each. Over the years the weekly relief rose – there was inflation even then.

In September 1819 the Overseers gave an order for Evan Evans to have a shirt bought for him, and in December a quantity of faggots were bought and deposited on the road opposite his house on Dinmore Hill. Presumably he was at that time fit enough to lift them into his house and, with coals and faggots and a new shirt, he should have been warm enough. A month later, however, he was obviously ill and weak, for on January 2nd 1820 an order was sent for Thomas Yeates to go to live in with Evan, ‘providing he will undertake to take care of the said Evan Evans for the sum he is now allowed – 3/6d a week’.

Evan had now been ‘on the parish’ for nine years, and must by now have been in his late 70s or 80s. Perhaps the Parish was becoming concerned, because in April 1820 they ordered the Acting Overseer to ‘take an account and also mark the goods and chattels and other effects now in possession of Evan Evans and belonging to the said Parish of Hope-under-Dinmore’.

That must have been a hard summer for old Evan. The four cottages belonging to the Overseers of the Poor were obviously in a bad state of repair, and in October 1820 the Parish ordered them to be repaired immediately. From other sources I know that tenants in other rented cottages complained of leaking roofs, ‘cannot sleep dry when it rains’, no oven, etc. Not good for anyone, least of all old people. That winter they had the work done, but it was February 1821 before the bill came from the mason. He was paid £2.10s.7d for repairing the four cottages.
But Evan Evans knew little of all this. Just a month after the repair order went out, and as the winter set in, on November 5th the Overseer was ordered to ‘take the property of Evan Evans to defray the expenses of the funeral’.

A sad story. He seemed a lonely man, once so proud to have raised a large family without aid from the parish – but where was that large family now? A John Evans is reported in the minutes as obtaining relief, and also regarding a debt owing to the Overseers. They paid to redeem his goods and chattels, and were now stopping his pay until the debt was discharged. He seemed a feckless type, but maybe he was not related to Evan Evans, whose family may have moved away in search of work. At least that once industrious man had the Parish to care for him.

If he were my ancestor, I would be thrilled to find such a cameo of the last ten years of his life; but the sadness would haunt me, just as his story does now. (Information from Hereford Record Office. Document Ref:- N31/33)

Ancestral Snippets From the Pelsall National Boys School log books:

Recorded by a weary schoolteacher on August 12th 1872:

‘One boy attended school with his head in such a filthy condition that he was requested to have it cleaned before coming again. ‘The next morning he came late, owing to his having washed his head in a puddle on the way. His mother absolutely denied having anything to do with it.’

Common Diseases Website

Pauline Stanley recommends this website, on Common Diseases of the 19th Century, for anyone interested in social history...(www.geocities.com/victorianlace16/diseases.html)

Computer Frustration and Relief by Tony Wallington

Have you backed up all your essential family history data? I have copied my family history files and trees onto CDs and other removable discs. A few weeks ago I was persuaded to go on Broadband, and I was told to remove my anti-virus software and firewall temporarily while installing it. This was the start of my problems. Unbeknownst to me, my server was having communication problems at the time of my installation. Apparently a warning about their service interruption was put out on their website – but if you cannot gain access to the website, obviously you cannot see their warning!

Seeking advice from a server’s telephone helpline is like watching paint dry; you are forced to listen to music, told that you are in a queue of decreasing numbers for half an hour or more, and then you have to try to follow the advisor’s advice.

My interpretation of the advisor’s instructions resulted in my hard drive being corrupted, so I had to wipe the hard drive and reinstall all my software, after connecting successfully to Broadband and reinstalling a firewall and anti-virus software.

I might have saved on disc my family trees on CDs and history files on discs, but I forgot to save on disc all family history related emails, my email address book and other address book. I also forgot to save on removable disc my data on people bearing my family names but who, so far, I do not believe to be related to me.

When I tried to look at my saved family trees on CD, I was alarmed at first to see a ‘read only’ notice on the screen. The prospect of re-inputting the names and data on the 3,000 family names I had identified as being related to me was horrifying. I now know that one can copy from the CD onto the hard drive these family trees and files under a new file name, and the file can be opened, with data then available for modifying*.

Much to my relief, I have recovered virtually all the family history data I had on my computer. From now, obviously I will be regularly saving all my family history information on removable discs.

* Editor’s note: All files copied onto CD-ROM discs seem to become ‘read only’. However, you can undo this when you copy them back onto your hard drive. Simply right-click with the mouse on the file name and select ‘Properties’ on the menu that pops up. This opens a dialog box in which ‘Read-only’ is ticked. Uncheck this, click ‘OK’ and Bob’s your uncle!
It’s all Relative

Family albums from the Documentary Photography Archive

Made possible by the Lottery Heritage Fund, this exhibition is aimed at promoting the Documentary Photography Archive and the recent addition of its catalogues to the ‘Access 2 Archives’ website.

In 1975, the Manchester Studies team at Manchester Polytechnic began to collect family albums from working-class homes throughout the Greater Manchester area. The project’s success is reflected in its size, with over 80,000 images now held at Greater Manchester County Record Office.

With the majority of photographs dating from the 1860s to 1940s, the albums act as a ‘diary of visual images, reflecting community, occupation and status’ of local people. They show us a time gone by, depicting scenes of the social and working landscape of the country, with a focus on Manchester – scenes that will seem alien to future generations. As you would anticipate, recurrent themes represent family portraits, holidays and recreational activities. However, expect the unexpected when searching the catalogues: professional football clubs, the workplace, transport, postcards and many broader themes can be found.

Through the biographical detail supplied by the donors, the catalogues provide a wealth of information. This maximises every item’s potential as a historical source and gives important contextual relevance to the images. The catalogues are now easily accessible through the Access 2 Archives website.

Access to Archives (A2A) is part of the National Archives network. It provides access to archive catalogues, via the Internet, that are otherwise held in repositories all over the country. The Documentary Photography Archive has been a recent addition; its catalogues can be searched easily through keywords, family names, places or any other special interest topic, all at the touch of a button. Have a browse to see what you can find!

Contact details

The DPA is freely available for anyone to consult at GMCRO. For more information and copies contact: GMCRO,56 Marshall Street New Cross Manchester M4 5FU. Tel: 0161 832 5284. Email: archives@gmcro.co.uk
To view the catalogues on line go to: www.a2a.pro.gov.uk

To see the exhibition online and other selected images from the collection go to: www.gmcro.co.uk

Arising from Coal Dust by Alan Brookes

Part 5: Coal dust, coal dust everywhere

Growing up in Chase Terrace meant always being aware that the coal industry was the sole or nearly sole employer. Almost every family depended upon the Colliery for their very existence; all our fathers worked down the pit as coal hewers, extracting coal with shovel and pick.

This was before the days of mechanisation of mine-cars, coal-ploughs and underground locomotives. Coal was extracted either by the long wall method or by pillar and stall. In either case, a group of men would be allocated a length of coal wall to extract coal from and load it onto a conveyor or tub. The roof would then be supported with timber props to enable the next shift of miners to carry out their work. The height of the coal seam in the Cannock Chase coalfield varied from 2ft 6" to about 4ft 6".

Dad used to tell me that his normal working position would be lying on his side, usually in about 3" of water, wielding his pickaxe to loosen the coal. Dependent upon the type of coal seam, under-cutters would be used. This was a type of chainsaw that sliced at the bottom of the coalface. Occasionally, explosives would be used in a hard coal seam, to shatter the coal and render extraction an easier operation.

As a child, it was impossible to fully appreciate the hardships and danger endured by my father as a coal miner. Only when it became my time to work underground did the realities of being a coal miner fully register with me. In 1963 I worked at West Cannock No. 5 Colliery in Hednesford as an apprentice mine surveyor. It was there that I experienced at first hand the terrible effects of explosives in a closed environment.

On one particular short underground visit, I recorded the following events:

Standing near the end of a coalface, I was writing measurements in my surveyor’s notebook. Without prior warning of what was to follow, I heard the shot-firer bawl out FIRE!I learned later that the correct procedure should have been for the shot-firer to check that no-one was near to the explosives.

The first thing I noticed was the thump through the rock strata, as the force of the explosion hit the soles of my feet. This was followed a moment later by the air blast, as the change in air pressure depressed my eardrums, with the simultaneous sound of the explosion causing deafness in both ears for a few minutes. The walls and roof of the tunnel shook, dislodging bits of rock and dust that clattered down onto my steel pit-helmet. My sight was then instantly obliterated with extra-fine coal and rock dust particles floating in the moving air stream. Even the powerful beam of light emitting from my cap lamp could not penetrate the awful gloom. I could not even discern my own hand placed directly in front of my eyes. The smell of the explosive mixture then stung my eyes and nostrils, and my mouth involuntarily filled with saliva, causing an intense feeling of nausea. I started to cough up the dust I had just inhaled with each breath for the past three or four minutes and I began to sweat profusely and felt the dust sticking to my flesh. My eyes were stinging and watering, with tears running down my cheeks. This lasted for about five minutes, until the moving air stream dissipated the effects of the explosion.

Throughout all this experience, I was terrified. At any moment I thought the roof would collapse and I would be buried alive. At the very least, I was going to choke to death, being blind and deaf in the meantime. How could the ‘real’ miners endure this hell-hole day after day? I wondered. They were working down here underground every day, and experienced an explosion every time they came to work. My experience at least was confined to an occasional visit underground as a surveyor.

Men who worked underground in a coal mine sweated all the time, both from exertion and from the inherent heat emitting from compressed rock strata thousands of feet below the surface. The average thermal gradient in the Cannock Chase coalfield was 1oC rise per 1,000 feet below the surface. I had an added source of sweat – a continual state of anxiety every time I descended the mineshaft. My main fear was of being trapped underground as a result of. a collapse of the tunnel roof.

Because of the sweat standing out in beads on my body, the intense air-borne coal dust immediately adhered to every part of my flesh. When my shift underground was finished, I used to soak myself for up to 30 minutes in the colliery’s hot showers to remove the coal dust and grime from my skin. What the shower couldn’t remove, of course, was the coal dust that entered my lungs. A lifetime’s accumulation of coal dust on miners’ lungs could lead to pneumoconiosis – a type of lung cancer, completely inoperable and untreatable, which culminated in a long and painful death.
It usually took until the following morning, after a night’s sleep, for the coal dust to seep out of my eyes and eyelids. It was two days later before the results of blowing my nose would turn from black to a normal colour in a handkerchief.
Dad worked at Cannock Chase No.3 Colliery, called the Plant or New Plant. Previously he had worked at Cannock Chase No.7 Colliery, near to Rawnsley. This colliery had a drift tunnel. A drift mine is where the coal seams are connected to the surface by an inclined tunnel and not a vertical shaft. One distressing symptom of the No.7 pit was that an infestation of rats crawled into the mine from the surface.
The distance from No.7 Colliery to No.3 Colliery was about three miles. No.3 was near Chasewater and No.7 was up on higher ground on Cannock Chase. The No.3 Colliery was the newest of the Cannock Chase Company and had a coal preparation plant, where the coal was graded and washed. Coal extracted from the other collieries in the company, including No.7, was transported to No.3 by rail, using steam locomotives and wagons.
As a young boy I fantasised that I had my very own Thomas the Tank Engine railway system, as I watched the trains and wagons going backwards and forwards through Chase Terrace. To get from No.7 Colliery to No.3 by rail meant crossing two roadways, High Street and Cannock Road. Both had level crossings, with four large wooden swing gates each. The continual passing of trains meant useful employment for a man and his family, who lived in colliery houses next to each crossing point, opening and closing the gates. The level crossing in High Street was just 50 yards from my granddad’s house, and was the one I used for my trainspotting.
The transportation of coal involved trains pushing and pulling about forty empty wagons at a time up the incline to No.7 Colliery. The wagons were loaded with coal and allowed to fall back down the line to No.3 Colliery by gravity. Here they were unloaded into the coal preparation plant and then taken back to No.7 for refilling, and the process was repeated day in, day out, morning and night.
Coal was mined at the company’s collieries on a three-shift continual rota basis. Each wagon, when full, contained forty tons net weight of coal, and was approximately fifty tons in gross weight, so each full journey of laden wagons weighed about 2,000 tons, all rolling down the incline towards Chase Terrace and crossing two public roadways en route. The procedure involved ‘braking’ the journey to prevent with the wagons catastrophically crashing through the gates and into No.3 Colliery.
This was where the Chase Terrace ‘cotter men’ earned their daily bread and their livelihood. A team of four men, armed with long wooden poles called ‘cotters’, spaced themselves along the tracks as the freewheeling laden wagons approached. They ran alongside until their speed matched that of the wagons, then placed their cotters under each wagon’s brake lever and jumped onto the cotter to apply a downward lever motion, thereby applying the brakes. This locked the wheels, causing the wagons to slow down, amid a cascade of sparks and screeching, and allowing the gates to be opened and closed.
It was fun to watch the men having a free ride on the cotters, rolling along accompanied by sparks flying from the locked wheels and cascading around their backsides. Sometimes they would be shouting and cursing when a cotter flew out and the wagons picked up speed. They would then have to run after the runaway wagons and apply the brakes again. I never did hear of any journey coming to an untimely end at the bottom of the incline. The men knew their job and always seemed to know the exact speed that the wagons should be going.
Another task for the cotter men would be to regularly clean the railway tracks. The coal-laden wagons would ‘drip-feed’ coal dust onto the rail tracks as they slithered and jerked on their route down the incline. Sometimes the tracks could not be seen for the coal dust that had been laid so thickly by successive journeys of wagons. A feature of the level crossing across High Street was the blackened tarmac, where passing road traffic had spread the coal dust along the High Street. There were five steam locomotives operating on the line at that time, named ‘Beaudesert’, ‘Uxbridge’, ‘Marquess’, ‘Paget’ and ‘Cannock Wood’.
Each had a connection with the landowner from under whose land the coal was mined, The Marquess of Anglesey, also known as Lord Uxbridge, was a member of the Paget family who lived at Beaudesert Hall, Cannock Wood. He received a sixpence royalty for every ton of coal mined from under his land on Cannock Chase. Even when he sold the freehold of land, he still retained the wayleaves and mineral rights.
Other locomotives, used mainly for shunting, were ‘Chawner’, ‘Foggo’ and ‘McClean’.
All the locomotives were 0:4:2 panniers, and had black and green livery with red borders to the front facing windows. The wagons were black, with large, diagonal white St. Andrew’s crosses painted along each side. Emboldened in white stencil at the front of each wagon was ‘CCCC’ – the abbreviated logo for the Cannock Chase Colliery Company.

National Burial Index

The Second Edition of the National Burial Index for England and Wales will be available from 1st September 2004, with over 13 million records on four CDs,

The First Edition of the NBI, published by the Federation of Family History Societies (Publications) Ltd, was a major success, and the Second Edition is expected to be even more popular. The number of entries has more than doubled, from 5.4 million to over 13 million burial records from Anglican parish, nonconformist and cemetery burial registers throughout England and Wales. The records timescale ranges from 1538 to almost the present day. The information contained includes (where given in the original record):

Ø forename(s) and surnames;

Ø date of burial and age;

Ø details of place where the event was recorded;

Ø pre-1832 county;

Ø the recording society, group or individual.

No Monumental Inscriptions or details of death registrations are included.

Although the records previously published in the First Edition have been included, and many more counties and parishes are now represented, not all burials are included. The NBI Viewer program, however, has been improved and now includes the facility to search on sensible, genealogically-relevant name variants.

The Second Edition is being launched at the Federation of Family History Societies’ 30th Anniversary Conference at Loughborough University, from 26-30 August 2004. From September 1st it will be available from FFHS at a cost of £45, but if you own a copy of the First Edition, you will be able to upgrade for only £25 by returning Disc 1 (containing the installation program) of the original two CD set, together with the instruction leaflet which was inserted in the front of the plastic case, to the FFHS Publications Company. There will be a special 10% discount available on orders received with full payment before 26th August 2004 (i.e. £40.50 for the new set and £22.50 for the upgrade).

For further information, visit www.familyhistorybooks.co.uk, email nbi@ffhs.co.uk, or tel: 0161 797 3843.
It took a nosey family historian to expose some of the skeletons in our family cupboard! Jan Green.