Burntwood Family History Group
   Home      Journal 2005 04 Volume 13 Number 3
Extracts from Burntwood Family History Group Journal
 April 2005     
Volume 13
Number 3 April 2005
 Vol. 13 No. 3
  Contents of this issue.
News from the Secretary
Heraldry Knaves
Canada Calling...
Reviews of Monthly Talks
A Health Warning!
Where there’s a Will ...
Requests for Genealogical Help
Extracts from Church Newsletters
Arising from Coal Dust (Part 7)
News from the Secretary

Your Journal and the 2005 Members’ Interests (MI) List were both published and distributed during January. While every effort is made to ensure that every member receives our regular publications – either by hand or through the post – it has to be remembered that keeping membership records up to date depends on information from members reaching the Honorary Secretary. I always try to remind members that subscriptions are due on 1st August each year, regardless of when they first join the group. If, by 1st December, the Honorary Treasurer has not recorded renewal of subscription, all benefits of membership, including a free copy of the Journal and MI List, cease to be provided.

It would also be helpful if existing members would think about whether or not they have notified any changes of address, telephone number or email address, since these details were submitted. It has recently come to light that some of the information on our Membership Database is incorrect, for no other reason than that the member has not thought to tell us of changes.

The BFHG Journal. Your Committee has discussed the format and printing of the Journal, and over the next few issues you may well see changes as a result of improvements in the methods and materials used. The group finances are quite healthy at the moment, and each year sees a small increase in the subscribed membership, which naturally put more money in the bank for us. However, we do have an obligation to use all funds for the general benefit of the membership, so we look for beneficial ways to spend any surplus which accrues.

In 2000 we received a grant from the National Lottery Awards of £5,000.00 which provided us with a number of fiche readers, a photocopier and the microfiches of all the local Parish Registers in the Lichfield, Cannock and Burntwood area, together with the necessary storage binders and drawers to keep them in. The fiches have been used to enable the transcription of most of these Registers to be completed as part of our 10th Anniversary (1996) Project.

The photocopier which was purchased has done sterling service in allowing the group to do its own printing and publishing since 2000, but it is now showing signs of its age and needs to be replaced. The current issue of the Journal and the MI List have been printed by Colour Graphics, giving better quality and saving a lot of work for myself and Carol Yapp. The centre page advertisements have been updated and demonstrate the greater attractiveness of colour printing. By the time the next issue is due, we may be able to produce it in-house again, using one of the latest multi-function machines, and also use more colour in it.

However, it is estimated that production costs would be at least 30% higher than has been the case in the past; so, if and when it happens, your comments would be much appreciated, as it will be your funds that are being spent.

The Committee is also open to your suggestions as to what other actions might be taken to improve the group’s service to its members. Letters to the Editor on the subject would be welcome.

New Members’ Interests

We are pleased to welcome the following new members to our group:

From the local area:

Ø John Merriman – surname interests: Merriman, Smith, Dunn and Guise

Ø Paul Hughes – surname interests: Hughes, Brotheridge, Rogers and Jelfs (all in Gloucestershire)

Ø David Elson, a relative of our former Honorary Secretary, Christine; and Geoff, a speaker at our meetings in the past. David’s interest is in the Elson family.

From further afield, we have:

Ø Gordon Richards (Pelsall): interested in Richards and Nicholls

Ø Susan Reeves (Leicestershire): Evans, Parkes, Chapman and Parry

Ø Timothy Kennedy (Cheshire): Kennedy, Rann and Hall

Ø Dorothy Elsworthy (Richmond, Yorkshire): Elsworth, Lee, Maddox and Silk

Ø Gillian Stretton (Conwy): Stretton, Derry, Bird, Carmichael and Craddock

Ø Raymond Hillman (Cumbria): Hillman and Holiman

Ø Lesley Harding (Stretton): Moseley

If you can help any of these new members, please contact the Honorary Secretary, who will be pleased to put you in touch.

As the 2005 Members’ Interests List has only just been published, it will be some time before the above details can be incorporated into the booklet.

Our Canadian Connection

Member No.1362, Robert Gilbert, joined the Group during 2004 and, as part of his submission of surname interests, gave us a comprehensive extract of his Wright and Slater ancestors. In fact, the information he has already acquired is far more detailed than we could have possibly provided him with from the records which we have transcribed and indexed.

No-one contacted us with information about the Wrights and Slaters when Robert’s surname interests were published in our Journal last year, but I feel sure there must be someone somewhere in the district who is related to him in some way. The earliest Wright was baptised in 1763 in Tutbury and died in 1842 in Lichfield. His son (both were named Henry) was also born in Tutbury in 1788 and married Mary Reeves in Hanbury in 1823. Mary was younger than Henry, being only 20 at the time of their marriage and apparently already carrying her first child Sarah, who was baptised in Lichfield on April 25th 1824 at St Michaels. There followed a further nine children, the last three born after 1837 and therefore recorded in more detail. The family were apparently at Greenhill until at least 1844, when George Thomas Wright was born there.

James Wright was the second child of Henry and Mary, born 1826 and baptised at St Michael’s. He married Catherine Fairbrother in 1847 in Lichfield. Catherine was born c.1824 in Trentham. James and Catherine had twelve children, the first nine being born in Lichfield (Rotten Row mentioned) and the last three in Chasetown.

Richard William Wright was the first child of James and Catherine, born 31st March 1850 in Lichfield, died 31st May 1886 in Chasetown. He married Annie Corbett, born 18th September, 1851, in Hammerwich, at Burntwood on 26th September, 1869. There were at least six children of this marriage between 1875 and 1886 and the boys were as follows:

Ø William, born Chasetown c.1875, married Elizabeth James in 1902 in Chasetown. He died in 1933 and his wife survived him until 1943.

Ø James, born Chasetown c.1882, married Mary Ann Sarsfield in December 1912 in Lichfield. James died in 1946.

Ø Richard, born 24th December 1883 in Burntwood, married Emily Wadden in Canada in 1907 and died 24th December 1931.

Ø George Jesse, born 17th March 1886 in Chasetown, married Bertha Owen in 1905 in Lichfield and died 27th January 1973 in Chasetown.

There were also two girls, both born in Chasetown:

Ø Mary Ann, born in 1880, no other information found

Ø Sarah Ellen, born 1876, died in 1877.

Wright was the maiden name of Robert Gilbert’s mother, her father being Richard William. When he died in 1886, his wife Annie (Corbett) remarried to George Slater in 1889. George Slater was also fairly local (Shenstone) and was the son of George Slater and his wife Jane (surname unknown). They had other children named Ellen and William. William married Mary from Hammerwich on 26th February 1883 in Lichfield.

It would seem likely that there are people with the surnames Wright, Corbett and Slater still around in this area. If you know of any of them or if you can make any other connection to Robert Gilbert, please let me (Geoff Sorrell) know.

Now there is a sequel. Robert Gilbert is very much a part of the family history scene in his home town of Campbell River, British Columbia, and he has recently sent us some information on the city and its Genealogical Society. This includes several issues of their Journal, The Treehouse, and some very interesting maps and brochures of the Vancouver Island area in general. These papers will be on the table at our meetings for the next month or two so that anyone can have a look at them. I have often been told that British Columbia is the most British part of Canada and, looking at some of the pictures, I can readily see the similarity between the Vancouver Islands and the Scottish Isles.

Robert has written a letter telling us about the Campbell River Genealogical Society and its activities. On reading it, I was struck by the similarities between our two groups – and also by the big differences between their geographical situation and ours, and by the superb facilities which they seem to have for the storage of and access to their research material. They just seem to be a rather larger and better equipped outfit than we are.

However, it made me think that lots of towns and villages have ‘twinning’ arrangements with similar places in other countries, so might it be a good idea to suggest a similar arrangement between ourselves and Campbell River? Let’s have your views on this for the next issue of the Journal in July. Geoff Sorrell (Hon. Sec.)

Avoiding the Heraldry Knaves

The following cautionary tale appeared in the Daily Mirror on Jan 20th, 2005:

‘What a pile of rubbish you get if you pay William Pince Publishers to research your family history.

‘Using junk mail, it touts a “chronicle” of your ancestors and even a family crest. One of its letters was sent to Robert Resuggan, of Birmingham, so we paid £67.80 to discover what he’d get for his money.

‘The “chronicle” was a booklet padded out with general heraldry guff, plus lists of people with the same surname as Robert, who may or may not be related. Many were not even Resuggans.

‘Much of the detail was hopelessly vague – among the useless gems was a listing for a Mary Rosegnold, child of unknown parents, born in Jersey on a date not known.

‘As for the crest, an expert at the College Of Arms could find no evidence of it in British heraldry records. Worst of all was the extra £17.95 we paid for a “personal family tree” – which did not contain a single personal family detail.’

So it just goes to show, while supposed shortcuts like this might look tempting if you’re interested in finding out more about your family history, there’s no substitute for proper research...

Canada Calling...

Robert Gilbert (see News from the Chairman) writes:

“I’m pleased to be a member of your group. Our Campbell River Genealogy Society website is run by my wife Christol. As our webmaster, she maintains and updates our site. Have a look on http://www.rootsweb.com/~bccrgc/. One of our members is from the Lichfield area. She married a Canadian bomber pilot while he was stationed in England. After the war they came to Campbell River, British Columbia where they still live. The Campbell River Genealogy Society and the Burntwood Family History Group just might have some more family connections.”

If you wish to contact Robert, his email address is r.j.gilbert@telus.net

Reviews of Monthly Talks

January 2005: Cath Yates on ‘Making sense of the Census’

Many in the audience were probably expecting to hear a general overview of the way in which the Census of the British Isles evolved from 1841 to 1901, but in fact Cath approached this subject in a very different way.

Using projected images of pages from the Walsall area, she analysed the entries made on a particular page from each of the censuses to show how more information was added over a period of 70 years, and how the character of an area and its inhabitants changed.

She showed how certain habitable buildings appeared as ordinary dwellings on early censuses, then developed through the years into fully licensed premises, the head of household having the occupation of ‘Licensed Victualler’. In the early census records, the provision of alcoholic beverages was often not the main occupation of the head of the household, and members of the family were often not involved in their parent’s trade, but had their own jobs.

Other examples illustrated the variety of trades in an area like Walsall, particularly the specialisation in the leather industry, where small workshops supplied bits of leather and metal which would be passed on to the ‘Saddler’ or ‘Bridle Maker’ for final assembly.

It was also shown how the development of the heavier industries, particularly coal mining, attracted immigration to the Walsall area from other parts of the country as the Midlands coalfields developed.

The census returns also provide much information on social conditions. The Workhouses had inmates such as unmarried mothers, the elderly and infirm, and those unable to fend for themselves and their families – the latter being segregated in these buildings.

While the subject matter covered only a narrow spectrum, the talk was nevertheless a fascinating insight into the lives of ordinary people in the mid-to-late 19th Century.

February 2005: Corinna Rayner on ‘Old Handwriting’

The Walsall Local History Centre once again provided our speaker, and Corinna introduced her talk with a very clearly printed overhead projection of a short paragraph in which almost evrey wurd was mispellde in summe way or uther.

The point being made was that with modern styles of printing and writing, and the comparatively poor ability of many of today’s readers to spell correctly, incorrect script can still be readable because we tend to ‘word-scan’ and ignore discrepancies. Thus we are able to make sense of a passage as a whole. Old handwriting, however, is unfortunately not so simple to read, due to the style of writing and the variations of spelling which occur.

It is necessary to look carefully at each word and sometimes to leave a word until you have the full sentence completed. It may then be possible to deduce what the word is, and sometimes even to recognise it. Some letters have many different forms in old script and Corinna handed out some examples of old writing, which included a full alphabet of many different letter forms.

To conclude the evening, the audience were handed copies of various old documents and invited to study them for a few minutes, before going through the translations they had made. To the credit of our group, everyone did very well and became so engrossed that our occupation of the Meeting Room went right to the wire.

March 2005: Annette Hall on ‘Skeletons in the Cupboard’

Annette started her very instructive talk with the information that tests on mitochondrial DNA show that, from prehistoric times to the present, the whole European population descended from about 8 to 10 individual people, with only about 37 different groupings now existing in the entire world. Our fortunate ancestors were survivors of plague and pogrom, so their timelines are like long threads, stretching down to us.

She told us how she had launched into researching her own family’s history, and the resources she had discovered to build it. Her starting point had been the memories of elderly relatives, which increased her understanding of more recent ancestors and the way they lived. However, she warned that relatives should not be pressed for information which they seem reluctant to provide, as some skeletons are best left where they are (e.g. quite a few illegitimate children were assimilated into families and may have been unaware of their real status).

One useful suggestion was that we should ask older siblings for their memories of childhood events which we may only be able to recall poorly. She also raised the intriguing question: ‘What memories of today will you be able to pass on to your own grandchildren that will make future generations laugh in 100 years time?’

Annette advised us to look for social history worth saving when going through someone’s possessions after they die. Flick through books, etc. for memorabilia, including newspaper cuttings, and keep death cards sent out when their relatives died, as these things can all contain useful genealogical information. Clues can also be discerned from unnamed photographs if we check the geographical area in the photographer’s address, and family groupings for ages, and try to guess the nature of the occasion. We should also save the family Bible from destruction, as this may list the names and dates of birth of all the children of the family. Annette said that her family’s Bible showed that most of her ancestors popped out on Tuesdays, following heavy washday Mondays!

She also provided advice on resources to be found in Record Offices, including censuses, parish registers, wills, inventories of possessions, rent records, estate papers, shop advertisements in newspapers and Poor Law documents. In her examples of the latter, a young girl ‘with child’ and no means of support was issued with an ‘Order of Removal’ back to her parish of origin, and an Account of the Overseer of the Poor for Fradswell in 1798 provided fascinating information about some local residents. And of course there was also the Internet to search!

Annette admitted that her talk was rather misnamed as she hadn’t made any terrible discoveries about her ancestors. In reality, most ‘skeletons in cupboards’ were understandable sins which had resulted from our ancestors trying to survive unimaginable poverty. She pointed out that as we research more deeply, we come to feel that names and dates are less significant than the ‘feel’ we get for the ancestors themselves. We come to realise that they were people living the best lives they could in their own times, so they should never be judged too harshly by our own standards.

An Evening with Carl Chinn

Just another quick reminder that this talk, an extra addition to our programme for 2005, will take place on Thursday 12th May 2005, 7pm for 8pm, at Burntwood Memorial Institute, Rugeley Road, Burntwood. Tickets cost £5 and are available from Pam Woodburn (01543 684208) or Jennie Lee (01889 586168). These were going like hot cakes the last we heard, so if you haven’t yet got yours, better make it quick!

Murphy’s Law in Genealogy

You know the great god Murphy is influencing your research when you find...

Ø Your ancestor’s ages on his death and marriage certificates and every census record you can find him on all suggest wildly different dates for his birth.

Ø The only unreadable page in the census you’re looking at is the one with your family’s entry on!

A Health Warning!

Warnings have been issued concerning a viral disease called ‘genealogitis’. For some years now the virus has been spreading. There are no known cures. This disease is dangerous to adults (and sometimes to the younger generation, also.)

SYMPTOMS: Continual complaints as to the requirement for Names, Dates and Places. Patient has no taste for work of any kind, except feverishly looking through records at libraries and Record Offices. Has a compulsion to write letters, vents anger at the postman when he doesn’t leave any mail. Frequents strange places such as cemeteries, old mines and desolate country areas. Makes secret phone calls at night, then hides phone bills from spouse. Mumbles to self and has strange faraway look in eyes.

If you think you might be suffering from genealogitis, try the following test. If you answer ‘yes’ to more than half these questions, you are definitely infected:

1.  Does your pulse quicken noticeably when you spot an old cemetery?

2. Would you rather read a census return than a good book?

3. Would you rather browse in a cemetery than a shopping centre?

4. Do you have a microfilm or fiche reader in your home?

5. Are you more aware of what happened in 1804 than in 2004?

6. Does the staff of your local library or Records Office lock the doors if they see you coming?

7. Do you keep your clothing under the bed and use your cupboard space for storing genealogical notes and journals?

8. Do you need so much paper to print out all of your notes that you routinely place orders for paper by the pallet load?

9. Can you find the hamlet in which your sixth-great grandmother was born on a map, but would struggle to identify the capital of France?

10. Have you traced your ancestral line back to Adam and Eve, but still feel you need to go further?

TREATMENT: Medication is useless; disease is not fatal, but does get progressively worse. Patient should attend Family History workshops, subscribe to genealogy magazines and be allotted a quiet corner in the house where he or she can be alone. The usual nature of the disease is that the sicker the patient gets, the better he or she likes it.

For the sake of keeping your mental condition calm, you may want to take steps to minimise the conflicts your condition causes. For example, try putting your furniture in the garage to make more room for your genealogical notes...

Where There’s a Will ... by Pam Turner

For several years now I have been searching for the marriage of my three-times great grandparents John and Mary Haycock, hampered significantly by the fact that I didn’t know Mary’s maiden name. John and Mary lived all their married life in Rugeley and Brereton, having twelve children born between 1814 and 1836, so the luxury of obtaining a birth certificate to aid my research for Mary’s surname didn’t come into the equation.

The only info I had to help me was from the 1851/61/71 censuses, which told me that Mary had been born in Penkridge circa 1793 – but on checking the christening registers for the town I found numerous Marys born around that time, so no luck there! Over the years, looking for the marriage, I checked the pre-1814 Parish Registers for Penkridge, Rugeley, Cannock and all their surrounding villages, but to no avail. I also searched the IGI many times, including the Soundex names, concentrating mainly on the rest of Staffordshire but also looking at other counties both near and far; however, nothing seemed to show. I therefore had almost resigned myself to the fact I would probably never know Mary’s name or find the marriage.

However, recently, while looking through the registers of St Peter’s Church, Wolverhampton for another of my lines, I came across a marriage of a John Highcock to a Mary Jones on 31st May 1813, and immediately thought that this could be my couple. At first I was surprised I had not spotted it on the IGI but, after re-checking the Family Search website, I realised the reason for this was that Highcock is not considered a Soundex version of Haycock, which I find unusual because it does sound very similar.

Although finding this marriage was a big breakthrough, I still did not have proof that it was my couple. The marriage details were not particularly helpful, stating that both parties were of ‘this parish’, although one of the witnesses was a William Highcock and I knew John had a brother called William – so that, at least, was a plus point.

So, how was I going to prove beyond doubt that this was my couple? The first thing I did was recheck Penkridge registers for the christening of a Mary Jones circa 1793, and sure enough I found a perfect match on 28th July 1793 – father John Jones (no mothers name). I surmised with a name like Jones it could have just been a coincidence; however, it was another positive point. The next thing I decided to do was look at my 1851 census on CD-ROM covering Rugeley and its surroundings to see if I could find any other Jones born in Penkridge, and luckily an entry came up.

Living at Holly Bank, Armitage was a widow, Susannah Jones aged 83, who was a farmer, together with her son George aged 43. Both were born in Penkridge, so could Susannah be Mary’s mother and George her brother? Certainly the ages fitted. I then checked the IGI for George Jones and found a christening in 1806 at Penkridge – parents John and Susannah. Knowing that Susannah’s husband was John, which matched the Mary Jones christening in 1793 was another plus point, but it still wasn’t absolute proof that my Mary was her child.

My next decision was to look at the 1841 census for Holly Bank, Armitage, and sure enough Susannah was living there. This time she had two others with her –Thomas and Edward Jones, aged 50 and 25 respectively – who I assumed to be both sons. This was confirmed by checking the IGI and finding christenings in Penkridge and Armitage, both giving Susannah’s husband as John. However, none of this information connected my Mary to this family, so I decided my last chance was to see if I could find a will.

As Susannah was aged 83 in 1851 I knew my chances of finding her death were good, and after checking the burial registers for Armitage I found an entry on November 10th 1853 for her, aged 85. I then looked in the Will Calendar book at Lichfield Record office for a match and. as luck would have it, I found one.

After requesting to see the will, I eagerly started to read through the four pages but initially was disappointed because it only appeared to mention her sons Thomas and Edward. However, I continued to read through to the end and finally uncovered what had taken me years and endless searching to find. Almost at the end of the document was the line ‘shall divide the surplus of such monies unto and between my six children hereinafter named Thomas Jones, William Jones, George Jones, Henry Jones, Edward Jones and Mary the wife of John Haycock’.

So now I had total proof of Mary’s surname and that the marriage in Wolverhampton in 1813 was definitely the right one. I also had the added bonus of having acquired information on Mary’s mother and siblings in the process. Most of this search for Mary’s surname and her marriage to John Haycock was based on proving theoretical possibilities and would have been made a lot easier had the too-common name Jones not been involved. However, persistence finally paid off and so, as the saying goes, ‘where there’s a will there’s a way’. In this case it really was true!

Requests for Genealogical Help

Mrs Lynn Taylor (153 de Montfort Way, Coventry CV4 7DU ) writes:

Ø I wonder if any of your members might have some information that will help me in my family research. I am interested in my grandfather Benjamin Vernon, 1882-1955. He was, I think, under-manager at Leacroft Colliery, Cannock. His father was Daniel Vernon, a miner born in Portobello in 1852. Benjamin was born in Normanton, Yorkshire, but the family were only there for a few years before coming back to the Cannock (Five Ways) area.

Daniel’s brother Joseph was well known at Bourne Chapel in Heath Hayes. Their father was Joseph Vernon (1828-1881). He was born in Cheshire, but came down to Staffordshire on a barge and settled eventually in the Heath Hayes area, where he founded a Sunday school.

Heather M. Bardner (rb@rbardner.freeserve.co.uk) writes:

Ø Please do you have any information about Edward Rowley (born 1822), who may have lived in Watling Street Road, Burntwood in 1853 when his eldest daughter Eliza (my grandmother) was christened there? I would like to know what his occupation was. He seems to have moved around in the surrounding area. At the time of the 1881 Census he lived in Brewood, although his older children George and Lucy were still living in Burntwood.

Ø Also, do you have any information about my grandfather Robert Twigg (born 1852)? He lived in Watling Street, was a mining engineer, but according to the 1881 Census (recorded in Norton Canes), his children were born in Cannock.

Church Newsletters

On the lighter side of religion, here are some actual sentences found in church bulletins and newsletters:

Ø Wednesday, the Ladies Liturgy Society will meet. Mrs. Jones will sing ‘Put Me In My Little Bed’ accompanied by the pastor.

Ø Thursday at 5pm there will be a meeting of the Little Mothers Club. All wishing to become Little Mothers, please see the minister in his private study.

Ø This being Easter Sunday, we will ask Mrs. Lewis to come forward and lay an egg on the altar.

Ø The service will close with ‘Little Drops Of Water’. One of the ladies will start (quietly) and the rest of the congregation will join in.

Arising from Coal Dust (Part 7) by Alan Brookes

Our milk used to be delivered by old Josiah Wood, who had a dairy farm in Boney Hay, on land now occupied by Redwood Park housing estate. He would amble around the streets with his horse and cart, carrying churns full of fresh milk. Mum would take jugs out to his cart to be filled straight from the churn with his ladle. In payment for standing still and allowing Farmer Wood to sell the milk, his contented horse would have a nosebag full of oats strapped to his face. Outside our house, the horse always seemed to leave us a present of a pile of steaming fresh dung. Dad thought this made great fertiliser for his tomatoes.

One day we started to have Co-op milk delivered in bottles. Farmer Wood’s milk was found to be variable in quality – sometimes too rich in cream and at other times watered down – so the local council food inspectors had put him out of business. What a shame that was, because we all thought the new Co-op milk was never as tasty as Josiah Wood’s organic farm-produced milk.

Gerald Heath owned a small shop on Rugeley Road dedicated to fishermen and gun sports. Every Monday afternoon he could be seen walking around the streets selling the fruits of his weekend hunting trips. Mum would buy from him about six pigeons, which we had roasted at dinnertime. These were very tasty, except for the lead pellets, which we all spat out into a dish placed in the table centre. Sometimes an identification leg ring would end up in the dish as well. When the pigeons were shot, Mr. Heath used to say he couldn’t differentiate between wild and domesticated pigeons. I used to think sometimes, “I hope the one I’ve just eaten wasn’t one of Uncle George’s prize racing pigeons!”

Another frequent visitor to houses in the Terrace was Nurse Inskip, who came to our house to bring vitamin supplements, as well as cod liver oil, milk powder and medicine for Mum. She suffered with high blood pressure, and because of this spent three months in the Manor Hospital at Walsall for each of the pregnancies with my brothers Clive and David. Dad used to take Peter and me every Friday evening to visit her, but all we saw of her each time was a fleeting glance from her ward window, as children were not allowed in. During this time, Peter and I were deposited at The Chequers in the morning by Dad, and then collected again in the evening, so during the day we lived at Gran’s house.

Another task for Nurse Inskip was being the ‘nit nurse’. She usually visited the school for her perfunctory inspection of the heads of children who were suspected of having nits or lice in their hair. We were proven positive on one occasion, so every evening after bathing, having used a special shampoo, our hair was combed with a fine toothcomb. The next time she came to school, we would be inspected and, if found to be okay, were spared the usual embarrassment of ritual derision from our schoolmates. We were not unique, as it was a common occurrence in school. Nurse Inskip always seemed to find someone with nits.

An interesting experience was visiting Hames’s barber’s shop at Sankey’s Corner. He was always busy, and men and boys would sit in his salon for hours awaiting their turn. As well as using comb and scissors, he possessed the latest electric shaver, with which he would sometimes crop a boy’s hair too close to his scalp and leave bare patches. Occasionally, miners would ask to be shaved. After his assistant had applied the lather, Mr. Hames would follow up with his cut-throat razor. Some miners also had their hair singed; applying a lighted taper to the previously cut hair produced a frizzy effect.

Mr. Hames obviously knew his clientele very well, for, without any word passing between them, a silent customer, along with receiving his usual ‘short back and sides’, would also receive ‘something for the weekend’. Thus the embarrassing act of a man having to ask for some ‘French letters’, as they were then known, in front of a shop full of customers, never occurred. It never ceased to amaze me how this was done. How did he know which men wanted them?

Cox’s grocery shop on Rugeley Road was where I used to shop for Mum, using ration stamps, which were still in use after the war for foodstuffs such as sugar and butter. This was where I could buy gobstoppers. These were large spherical sweets or aniseed balls, costing a penny for four or one farthing each, which completely filled my mouth. Each used to last for about thirty minutes before being consumed and they kept Peter and me quiet for all that time – hence their name. Sometimes I entered the shop with Mum’s ration book and had no money to buy them. A smiling Mrs. Cox would then reach into the massive sweet jar that stood on her counter top and kindly pass down to me a free gobstopper.

The inventory of her shop was an interesting sight to behold. Salt was then sold in blocks about a foot long and six inches square. Upon reaching home with the block, Mom would lay a teatowel on the table and pulverise the congealed salt with a wooden rolling pin until it became loose, powdery crystals. These were then conveniently stored in a gallon glass sweet jar.

Green soap came in long bars, to be later cut into usable-sized chunks. Ceilings and walls were painted with whitening which was sold in spherical balls, about a foot in diameter, by Mrs. Cox. Dad’s Woodbines, which came in plain green packets of five or ten, cost one penny each. Loose tealeaves came in large plywood tea-chests, and were weighed up in the shop according to the quantity required by each customer.

Washing soda flakes came in large Hessian sacks, kept stacked at the rear of the shop. Bright yellow cheese was displayed within the shop’s glass-fronted counter in enormous 101b slabs. Mrs. Cox always seemed to struggle to place a slab of cheese on her granite block, where she sliced it through with a wire held in each hand.

Loose sugar was sold in plain bags consisting of stiff blue paper. Zebo liquid black-lead was an item bought by Mum used for cleaning the fireplaces. Hudson’s dried soap was also sold in a loose, unwrapped state. Butter came in a similar state to the cheeses – large slabs, but wrapped in a translucent stiff paper that Mrs. Cox extracted from large wooden tubs. She stored vinegar in considerable wooden barrels at the rear of her shop, where customers would bring in their own bottles and jugs to be filled. The empty tea-chests, Hessian sacks, cardboard boxes, gallon glass sweet jars and barrels were in demand by thrifty Terrace people always ready with an alternative use for these items.

Cox’s shop became well known for selling tobacco products. As well as the common Woodbines, other brands on sale were: Senior Service, Piccadilly, Navy Cut, Players Weights, Craven-A, Kensitas, Du-Maurier, Robin, Black Cat and Ardath.

In conjunction with cigarettes, most coal miners also bought chewing tobacco for consumption during their work down the pit. The two best-known types that come to mind were ‘Shag’ and ‘Twist’. Chewing the tobacco stimulated their saliva glands to such an extent that they promptly spat out the excess fluid, rather than swallow the rancid-smelling, brown infusion. Spitting also discharged the coal dust the miners had inhaled. This, however, was profligate in their normal lives outside the colliery to such an extent that it came to be considered a foul and disgusting habit, synonymous with miners and coal mining. Upon boarding any blue Walsall Corporation bus at that time would be seen clearly, in painted lettering, ‘The act of spitting is prohibited’.

Some miners obtained their nicotine fix by ingesting snuff. This powdered tobacco, mixed with herbs and spices, was kept in small tins that fitted snugly in the miners’ waistcoat pockets. A pinch of snuff was placed on the back of a hand, held up to the nostril and then vigorously inhaled through the nose. I remember that some snuff-taking miners who had colds used to dribble a trail of brown nasal fluid down the front of their shirts and suits!

Snuff taking was considered to be a superior social habit to smoking cigarettes, and was usually reserved for the more senior members of the local society.

Other shops on the Rugeley Road were Poxon’s sweet shop, Dewsbury’s delicatessen, Pugh’s drapery shop opposite the Junior School, and Lort’s grocery shop on Thirlby’s corner at Boney Hay.

Alan Pugh’s drapery shop was where Mum accompanied me to buy my first pair of long-legged trousers. Having a stranger measure my inside leg length for the first time seemed quite an embarrassing moment.

Dewsbury’s shop and mill was where I visited to collect the crushed oats for my dad’s rabbits. Mr Dewsbury baked all the bread that his family sold in their shop. Visiting the rear premises was an interesting experience, as I could watch him preparing and kneading the dough mix before placing the loaded bread tins in the coal-fired oven. Occasionally my visit would coincide with the opening of the oven doors, and the smell of the newly baked bread was wonderful. His well-worn oven spatula would drag out numerous, shiny, twirled shaped crusts to adorn the tops of the inflated, engorged bread of all shapes, colours and sizes.

Viewing the saliva involuntarily dripping from my lips, a smiling Mr Dewsbury would break off some of one of the still-warm crusts and throw a generous piece to me. Its exquisite taste and texture is impossible to adequately describe here and will be left simmering in my memory for the rest of my days.

Mr. Dewsbury’s land at the rear of his mill extended all the way to Water Street, where he kept numerous pigs. The delicious-looking honey-coated, home-cured hams and bacon flitches hanging on the walls of his shop were ample evidence as to his expertise in the art of rearing pigs for human consumption. The family-run shop always seemed to have queues of people waiting to be served with hand-cut ham slices or a massive, fresh, crusty loaf of bread.

The local florist was Ethel Marshall in Eastgate Street. Dad and Granddad used to supply her with chrysanthemums and other flowers grown in their gardens throughout the year. Ethel used the flowers to skilfully fabricate wreaths for funerals and sell them from her doorstep.

Once, at the local annual flower show, Dad won the best in show prize for a bunch of yellow, incurve chrysanthemums. She promptly bought these from Dad with a brand new, clean, pink-coloured ten-bob note. I had never seen so much money before. ‘Wow!” I thought, “Dad is rich!”

Members, Good news to begin with this time! Two of our members, John and Jenny Hodson, have offered to take over the organisation of the fiche and reader hire from April 2005. I know lots of people have been waiting for this to happen so that they can do research using our fiche in their own homes. Please give them all the help you can by returning things on time and in good order. By the time you read this, the Christmas season will be just a memory; but at the moment of writing I have just heard that we have enough people to make the trip to London viable, which is quite a relief as we didn’t want to disappoint people by having to cancel for a second time this year.

As I write this, the first of Pam Woodburn’s internet tutorials is due to take place tomorrow evening (the November Thursday meeting). If they are well supported and there is a demand, she will do something similar in the Spring, so watch out for an announcement in the New Year.We continue to add census CDs for the Midland counties as and when they become available. As you will appreciate, it is an expensive project and it will be some time before we have a complete collection. A few members who have no research to do in the Midland counties are feeling a bit left out but, as you can imagine, we cannot offer to buy for the whole of the country, much as we would like to. However, they can always come on the London trips and use the films at the Family Record Centre, which has the nationwide coverage on film. I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a happy and peaceful New Year and good hunting in 2005.