Burntwood Family History Group
   Home      Journal 2009 07 Volume 17 Number 4
Extracts from Burntwood Family History Group Journal
July 2009
Vol. 17 No. 4
Contents of this issue.
From the Chair...
A Memorial You Wouldn’t Want
News from the Secretary
Parish Records of St Mary’s, Lichfield (part 2)
Arising From Coal Dust, Part 14
Reviews of Talks
Church Newsletters
Family Jewel
What’s the Time, Mr. Wolf?
The Scouts and I
Those Were the Days
This Issue’s Cover Photo
From the Chair
Dear Friends, Since our last Journal we have had yet another successful visit to the National Archives at Kew. It was well supported, but we were glad that our friends from the Cannock Wood and Gentleshaw Gardening Guild were able to come along, as this made the numbers viable for the trip to go ahead. Last year we went twice, but we have not yet decided whether to repeat this, because if we go too often we shall have a problem filling the coach. However, some of you may be keen to go later in the year now we know that the 1911 census is available at TNA online and is FREE! Taking advantage of this will be a big money-saver. Our thanks go to Jenny Lee for all her work in arranging the visit. Geoff Sorrell has also been busy, putting together a booklet which will be circulated to each member in the near future. It will contain an alphabetical list of all our library books, microfiche and CDs, and will also show the name of the person you need to contact to borrow them. This will usually be at the Thursday meeting, as before. When you do borrow, please return the item at the next Thursday meeting, so that nothing is out of circulation for too long. Many thanks to Geoff for his work on our behalf. If you have fiches or CDs which you have purchased for your own research and are willing to loan them out to other members, would you please list them, together with your name and phone number, and we will keep the lists in a file for people to peruse. It will then be up to the people concerned to make private arrangements for any loan to go ahead. As I mentioned at the last meeting, I would like to pass on two of the tasks I have been doing for some time, namely the sale of the Family History Monthly magazine and the job of Meetings Secretary. Ideally whoever takes these jobs on would need to be at meetings on a regular basis. I sell the magazine at both Monday and Thursday meetings, but I realise that this is asking a lot. Perhaps two could share the task? The Meetings Secretary is rather different, as it entails more input, but of course I am willing to help out until the new person feels confident. They need to be present at the majority of Monday meetings and to liaise with the Mining College re. equipment and any special requests. Also, of course, they are the contact with the speakers and need to be present to welcome them and arrange payment through the Treasurer. If anyone is interested, I will be happy to give further information and help them in the beginning. Please do give it some thought. Another area where you could help is selling the CDs produced by the group. Orders are received from all over the country by post and email, and need to be dispatched promptly. Jeff Wilson has been doing this for quite some time and will be pleased to give further information on request. Thanks to Jeff for the work he has done. This year we are hoping to have a table at the Chase Wakes, so we hope to see some of you there. Jane Leake
A Memorial You Wouldn’t Want
We’d all like to think people would remember us fondly when we’re gone, but we wonder what this person would think if she knew about the inscription on her gravestone! Here lies the body of Charlotte Greer, Whose mouth would stretch from ear to ear. Be careful as you tread this sod For if she gapes, you’re gone, by God
News from the Secretary
Once again we are almost at the end of another successful year for the Group, and I have to remind everyone that subscriptions are due for renewal on or before the first meeting in August. You will find a form enclosed with your Journal which you can complete and enclose with your renewal subscription. As we shall have a new Honorary Treasurer by the time of the Annual General Meeting in September, the form and cheque should on this occasion be sent to me at the address given on the form, and I can then update the Members’ Interests list before passing on the subscriptions to the new Treasurer – who will probably be Jeff Wilson. In order to keep the Interests List as tidy as possible, it is necessary to remove any information which is no longer relevant and add any new interests which you have developed since your original submission. Please use the bottom part of the form to list your current interests, unless you have no additions, alterations or deletions to make, in which case simply write across the form: ‘Continue as in the 2008-9 list’.
Index to research materials
An alphabetical list of all the research aids that are available through our Group will be available soon – possibly in time to include it with this edition of the Journal. As many of you will already know, we have acquired many books, microfiches and CDs over the years, and these are available to members for use in their research. They have been indexed in the past, but never in booklet form, with all formats integrated into one alphabetical list. It has been suggested that many members do not know what is available to them, so this new publication, which is not for re-sale and is for the use of members only, should enable anyone to see what they can have access to. Most items can be used at the Thursday meetings, but many of them can be borrowed and taken home for a limited period if you have the equipment on which to view them. It is also possible to borrow a fiche reader from the Group if you do not have your own. The Index is quite minimal, in order to keep the size down to A5 and the print size readable. Each indexed item has a brief description of what it contains and its source. Because the Group does not have its own storage facilities, the CDs and some of the fiches are in the care of either Steve Bailey or myself. To have access to the item you require you should, in the first instance, contact the person named in the last column, who will tell you how to arrange for its loan. Geoff Sorrell
Parish Records of St Mary’s, Lichfield (Part 2) by Jane Leake
As you’ll have read in the last issue of the Journal, our present transcription project involves the Parish Records of St Mary’s Church, Market Square, Lichfield (General Register 1677 to 1716). Transcription of the records continues, albeit slowly, but the early entries are very difficult to read and take up a lot of time. However, the Lichfield Joint Record Office staff have been very helpful and it is possible to view the original Bishop’s Transcripts to help us to decipher entries that are very faint or spoiled in some way. You may think that people today choose some strange names for their offspring but, as I said last time, that is nothing new. Here are a few more names that I have come across in recent weeks.
Wakefield son of James Robinson was baptised 15 th August, 1719
Francis Kent married Ann Adderstick 13 th September, 1720
Hugh Hughs and Sarah Alcock were married 1 st January 1722
Joseph Arimathea son of Francis Fido was baptised 26 th December 1722
Green son of George Harthall was baptised 7 th November 1723
Eusebius Holmes and Marabella Onions were married 28 th January 1723/24
Mary daughter of Gilvard Shaw was baptised 20 th June 1725
Deliverance daughter of Richard Elkin was baptised 18 th June 1727
Frances daughter of James Batman was baptised 4 th October 1727
Anne daughter of Worley Walmsley was baptised 26 th May 1728
Isaac Rose son of Mr. John Bailey was baptised 27 th August 1728
Thomas son of Greenwood Gregory was baptised 17 th September 1729
Valentine Bird and Arabella Jones were married 16 th August 1730
Smalwood son of Randolph Rutter was baptised 9 th January 1730/31
Margaret daughter of Swinfield Coleman was baptised 29th. November, 1731
John Jony son of Statham Jony was baptised 28 th October 1738
Orson son of Valentine Bird was baptised 19 th August 1738
Henry Caeser son of Humphrey Bond was baptised 12 th October 1747
The double year dates relate to the fact that, from about 1190 until 1st January 1752, the Julian calendar was used in England and each year began officially on Lady Day, 25th March, rather than on 1st January. In 1752, England adopted the Gregorian calendar and was thus brought into line with most of the rest of Europe.
Arrising from Coal Dust (Part 14: A Public Execution) by Alan Brookes
Our headmaster at the Chase Terrace Secondary Modern Boy’s School was Mr Walter D Wright. He was a kind, gentle, cultured man who was usually cheerful, but extremely strict when needed. Later in life, now armed with personal experience as a teacher, I look back and realise he was the perfect headmaster for a secondary school such as mine. He was an extremely well-written man, with numerous books on literature and the English language to his name. His father was Meshak Wright, a well-known local author and journalist with the Express and Star. He published his work under the pseudonym of ‘Pitman’ and was the founder of the Pitman publishing company. Mr Wright was only a small man, perhaps no taller than 5'3". His short, cropped brown hair crowned a ruddy, healthy-looking face, which seemed to shine visibly when he was smiling or laughing. He sported thick, black, horn-rimmed spectacles and wore a small, black smudge moustache. Although born into a literary household at Hednesford, Staffordshire, he had begun his working life as an underground electrician at West Cannock Colliery. His first teaching post had been at the Westhill Primary School in Hednesford. By good example he always encouraged his boys to give of their best in all situations, and he provided an enjoyable atmosphere in school that endured for the whole four years of my attendance there. He was also a capable musician, being proficient in playing both piano and violin. When I started to play the cornet in the school band, he seemed delighted. Music lessons were an extra item not normally delivered as part of the school curriculum, and partaking in them meant staying in class after the normal school day had finished. Although he wasn’t the brass band leader, he came along to lend his enthusiastic support. He particularly enjoyed my playing of ‘Jerusalem’ and used to accompany me on his piano. Entering the final year at school, I was amazed and also immensely proud to be made a school prefect, as this honour was reserved for only twelve boys each year. Perhaps my extra-school musical duets with him may have had a bearing on his decision to elevate me. Roland Price was one of the biggest bullies in the school. He was seemingly always in trouble with the masters either for damaging school property, swearing, smoking in the classroom, or hurting other boys who possessed much smaller bodies than his massive frame. He was intensely disliked by almost everybody except his immediate cronies, who had similar criminal dispositions. One afternoon, every pupil was summoned into an extraordinary school assembly in the school hall. We all lined up in our normal class formations, with taller boys at the back, descending to the smallest boys at the front. I therefore had a ringside seat to observe in the closest detail what was going to happen. All the masters were lined up at the back of the stage, with Mr Wright standing in his usual place at centre stage. He and the staff were in sombre mood, with the headmaster looking particularly stern and severe. This dark afternoon his complexion was shining not with joy, but with fury. I stood there transfixed, sensing that either something bad was going to happen or that bad news was to be told. Firstly, he apologised to us all for having to interrupt our normal lessons. He then ventured to explain to us why we were all summoned to that special assembly; we were to witness a public execution. Sorry, I actually mean a public  flogging, but to poor Roland Price it surely must have felt more like an execution. A table was brought onto the stage and Roland appeared, looking quite unconcerned at the drama unfolding in front of him. He was then spreadeagled, bent over across the table with his arms outstretched. Two masters held down a hand each to the table and Roland’s legs were held forcibly apart by two other masters. Roland and the four masters were locked momentarily into this scenario while the headmaster delivered an explanation and the terms of Roland’s sentence. He was going to receive six strokes of the cane, followed by expulsion from the school. “Six and out,” I thought, relating this to the game of rounders. Six ‘of the best’ from Mr Wright was going to hurt a lot. Although small in stature, he was a very fit man and in his current mood I didn’t envy Roland one bit. He was to receive this punishment for repeatedly stealing and for being ‘a congenital thief’, Mr Wright explained. His parents, we were told, had given their permission and consent for Mr Wright to administer this punishment, in a last hopeful attempt to put Roland back onto a straight path. Unknown to all the school, he had been regularly receiving cautions from the police and had attended the local magistrate’s court in Lichfield on several previous occasions, having been charged and then convicted with theft. The headmaster then turned to Roland, showed him his willow cane and uttered the well-known cliché, “This is going to hurt me more than it will you.” In this case I am certain that was true, because as well as being a gentleman, Mr Wright was also a gentle man. What the headmaster was going to do went against his natural instinctive nature as a true educator. That afternoon, Roland Price received six of the most fearsome blows I have ever witnessed. Mr Wright approached Roland’s rear with speed and venom, whipping his willowy, hooked cane across Roland’s backside with tremendous force. The solid resistance of the boy’s backside absorbing that willowy cane caused ghostly clouds of either steam or dust to rise into the air after every stroke. To his credit Roland did not cry out, but just moaned a little after each stroke. Both Roland and Mr. Wright were sweating profusely as the end of punishment neared. After it was all over, Mr Wright shouted to the terrified assembly, “I wouldn’t have done this, if I didn’t think it would do some good and benefit Roland.” Mr Wright then dismissed us all and slumped into his high-backed piano chair, totally deflated. Fifteen years later I was visiting Blackpool Pleasure Beach with my children when, lo and behold, I met Roland again. He was controlling a children’s carousel, taking tickets from his small clients and then starting and stopping the ride to allow them to get on and off. He remembered me, and we passed the time of day while watching my two girls enjoy the spinning ride. During our conversation, I kept wondering what was uppermost in his mind that day. Mine certainly went back to that awful afternoon in 1958, in that extraordinary assembly. I thought to myself that the headmaster’s punishment must have done some good, because Roland wasn’t in prison and he was working in a job. I’m sure Mr Wright would have been pleased that such a positive outcome had come from that ‘public execution’.
Reviews of Talks May 2009: Delia Wyre on ‘Unravelling the Woolleys’ Reviewer: Sheila Clarke
In some ways, this was a story that many of us are quite familiar with. When researching her own family history, Delia found herself hitting a brick wall with several of the female branches of her ancestors. She had heard various stories of the Adams and Woolley lines, starting with a Joseph Adams marrying a Mary Woolley in Burton-on-Trent in 1830. Joseph’s branch was fairly easily traced back to the 1600s, but Mary’s was a different matter; despite all censuses giving her birthplace as Burton, no record of her baptism had ever been found. However, Delia did not give up on this line, as she explained the different avenues she followed to build up a picture of Joseph and Mary and their life together. Rather than becoming frustrated with a search of the past, she built up a very clear picture of their family while all the time looking for clues. First of all, Delia found six Woolley couples, and one of these had no children. Delia’s Woolleys had seven children, so she began to compile a tree for each of the five couples. She used many sources familiar to most of us – the Internet, directories, censuses, parish records and anything else she could think of. In this way she was able to tie up all the baptisms she found to the correct parents. By searching registers of deaths and gravestones and looking for wills and obituaries in local papers, she was gradually able to prove the authenticity of some of the old family stories she had heard from her grandma, including the question, was Joseph a publican? Yes, he was, as the Woolleys were licensees of the White Horse Inn in Burton right up until 1872. A Thomas Woolley died in 1828, leaving a widow and five children, and his son William, who took over the White Horse Inn, left a very detailed will when he died in 1844. His will stated that if no children of his were alive, his estate should be divided into four parts for his brothers and sisters. A later addition to the will was that the fourth part should go to his deceased sister’s children. Some time later, while researching another branch of the family, Delia found a very interesting account of an auction sale of the belongings of Thomas Woolley. She was surprised to learn about a lot if his possessions – 60 pairs of sheets, for instance. Was the White Horse also a lodging house, she wondered.
From the Derby Mercury, information about a sale at the inn indicated it to have been a lucrative business. It was said to have a bowling alley – this was in 1867! The Woolley connection ended some thirty years after this date, when the White Horse Inn was knocked down. Delia’s story had, however, shown us how a family historian has to explore many avenues and overcome many obstacles and never give up in their quest. Helpful as Ancestry and other internet sites are, we should sometimes dig a little deeper to build up a more rounded picture of our ancestors’ lives.
June 2009 The advertised speaker for June had to withdraw for health reasons, so three of our members gave talks on aspects of their research:
1. John Catliff Many of us will remember the talk John gave some time ago telling us of his Great Aunt Ann Rayner Woodhouse Hastings who, after her husband’s death in 1873, went to Russia and became governess to the children of the Tsar. Information about Ann’s life in Russia came from copies of the letters she had sent from Russia until 1900. Pauline recently loaned John a copy of Who Do You Think You Are? magazine and in it was an article which mirrored John’s story; a woman wrote of a relative who had looked after Russian royalty. She stated that many of the records of that period are held in the Brotherton Library of Leeds University, so John wrote to the library, sending copies of the letters he had. Unfortunately the transcriber of John’s letters had missed words out here and there, so the library advised John to get photocopies of the originals and they would then try and help him. John pointed out that this was a lesson to us all – where possible, we should obtain photocopies and not transcriptions. He had been offered photocopies of the originals in the first instance, so he was mortified to find that the originals had now been sent to someone in New Zealand! He lives in hope that photocopies will be sent to him from there. John was able to find more information whilst on our recent trip to Kew. At that time he was researching his great-grandfather, Edward Catliff, and his marriage to Isabella Stuart Tuck. He found that she had filed for divorce on the grounds of cruelty whilst she was pregnant with John’s grandfather. Edward’s brutality made upsetting reading. John’s grandfather Edward William lived with his Tuck family grandparents, as John found out from the 1871 census. Isabella and Edward must have become reconciled, because they made the voyage to India, starting a drapery business. They had five children between 1866 and 1872 in West Bengal. Their sixth child was born in England in early 1872, but Isabella, aged only 26, died, along with her daughter Lucy Grace. On August 22 1872, Edward Catliff married Clara Louise Carr, the daughter of a wealthy draper with links to India. The first of their four children was born there in 1873. John’s grandfather, Edward William, was listed as a draper’s assistant for a large Oxford street store in 1881. John could find no mention of him in the 1891 census, but he was listed as a medical student on the 1901 census, living with his wife Alice Emma Johnson Tuck and her daughter, with other children from a previous marriage living with her mother nearby. Edward’s name is spelt Calliff. John went back to the 1891 census and found William ‘Calllif’, medical student, living in Marylebone with his younger brother John Frederick Henry Catliff who had been born in India. Edward was a medical student for at least ten years. One final note; at Kew, just out of curiosity, John looked at the divorce papers of a medical practitioner, Harry Tuck, because Tuck was a family name. His wife was none other than Alice Emma Johnson Tuck, who had committed adultery with a certain Edward William Catliff. Grandfather Edward had to pay £35 plus costs. Alice and Edward married in 1893 and had 11 children, five of whom died at birth.
2. Carol Jones Carol’s interest in family history began when she was twelve, when her grandma told her stories about a Rose Pierce, who had an illegitimate child. The Pierce family had moved to New Zealand, and it was from there that Carol learned that Rose had been born in Berkeley, Gloucestershire; however, she was unable to find any trace of her there. Later Carol found that Rose was actually born in Slimbridge. She tracked down the birth of Rose’s son in 1823 and Rose had been a witness at her sister’s wedding a few years later. She was still living in Slimbridge at the time of the 1851 census. Perhaps the confusion in New Zealand as to Rose’s place of birth arose because Berkeley and Slimbridge are both in the Vale of Berkeley. There was also talk that someone in the family had been murdered. Carol belongs to the Gloucester Family History Society, as her forebears come from tat area. She trawled through inquests from 1822 until 1878, punching in family names to no avail. However, when she keyed in the Forest of Dean area, a report showed that a William Saywell murdered his wife on 21 May 1829, and that William was executed after his trial on 12 September 1829. The Gloucester newspaper of the time recorded the grim events of the inquest, trial and execution. William Saywell, aka Sulley, worked as a casual labourer. Neighbours heard cries coming from the vicinity of the railway track and saw Sulley beating his wife with his fists whilst she lay on the ground. His wife dragged herself back to their hut, and neighbours who visited her found her covered in bruises and lying on a straw mattress. She died two days later from her injuries. The report stated that the hut was a miner’s cabin containing no furniture apart from a bed fashioned as a large box and containing a mattress filled with straw, with a coverlet and a wooden cover to retain the heat. The hut had no door. William Saywell was hanged outside Gloucester prison and before he died he spoke to the spectators. He admitted to the murder, stating that he had a violent temper which was made worse by strong drink. He also apologised for his crime before the bolt was withdrawn. Ann Saywell, the daughter of the unfortunate pair, was one of Carol’s ancestors. Carol showed us a photograph of Ann, taken later in life with her own family.
3. Bob Houghton Bob is a volunteer at St. Mary’s Centre Family history group, which helps pensioners in Lichfield to research their family histories. Bob is there for most sessions, together with Chris Sharma, a computer wizard, and as many volunteers from the BFHG as he can muster. If you are interested in helping, see Pam or Jane. In the early days, the group had one computer with dial-up internet provision, and sessions did not need to be booked. Now there are three laptops with wireless connection and a printer. Family histories of the members are stored on disc and can be viewed on the original computer. The sessions have to be booked now because of popularity, each person being allocated three-quarters or an hour, and there is a waiting list. Bob showed photographs of the centre with a session in progress, and also photos of some of the members. He related some of their interesting family stories, including that of one lady who is trying to prove a claim to valuable real estate in London. Bob said that they have recently made a breakthrough, but he does not know yet where it will lead. The same member has pirates amongst her ancestors, and Bob is also helping her to explore that avenue. Another member, Mary, is related to William Herbert who, having fought in the Napoleonic Wars, set up a factory manufacturing framework knitting. He made and lost several fortunes, but died penniless. Mary’s son posted their family tree on Ancestry.co.uk and then received an email from someone in Australia who was descended from the Archer branch of their family. On the Australian’s family tree, the father of a certain Charles Henry was a different person from the one who had been found via Ancestry. Copies of birth and marriage certificates and census returns were exchanged via email and studied carefully, and the mystery was solved within 24 hours. In the days before computers and emails it would have taken weeks, and would have cost a small fortune in postage and trips to various record offices. It transpired that Charles Henry’s mother died shortly after his birth, and he was sbsequently brought up by an uncle and aunt who had no children of their own. The older children in the family stayed with their father. It is possible that until he married, Charles Henry believed that his uncle and aunt were his birth parents, because on his wedding certificate the name of his uncle had originally been entered as his father. This had been crossed through and initialled by the registrar, who had then entered the name of his birth father. Bob thought that this family story was worthy of a plot for a Catherine Cookson novel! The Group wishes to thank John, Carol, and Bob for giving such interesting talks.
Church Newsletters
Oh, no, here they are again! Another selection of genuine snippets from church newsletters and bulletins guaranteed to make the congregation cringe!
The sermon this morning: ‘Jesus Walks on the Water.’ The sermon tonight: ‘Searching for Jesus.’
Ushers will eat latecomers.
Due to the Rector’s illness, Wednesday’s healing service will be discontinued until further notice.
Family Jewel
(found on the ‘Genealogy Poetry and Prose’ website) I hold in my hands a treasure so rare, I close my eyes and imagine I’m there, When she wrote each name with care, Not knowing with me some day she’d share. Could she have known what a jewel it would be? That it would be something I waited to see? That one hundred years later the Bible I’d hold, That in its pages more that God’s story is told. I imagine she was proud of her family. For what greater gift could there be, Did she imagine the family to come? That I would be from the family of her son? This family heirloom I will handle with care, So that in another hundred years it will be there, For my great-great-grandchildren may it be, A gift they are searching for to add to the family tree.
What’s The Time, Mr. Wolf? by Maureen Hemmingsley
This warning to young girls about the nature of wolves leaves no doubt that this rhyme telling a moral at the end of a story in Perrault’s Tales of My Mother Goose published in 1697, was not referring to canines in ‘Little Red Riding Hood.’ One English translation reads:
Little girls, this seems to say,
Never stop upon your way,
Never trust a stranger-friend;
No one knows how it will end.
As you’re pretty so be wise;
Wolves may lurk in every guise.
Handsome they may be, and kind,
Gay, and charming – never mind!
Now, as then, ’tis simple truth –
Sweetest tongue has sharpest tooth!
The Scouts and I By Eric Evans (an extract from ‘The Boy’s Tale’)
I joined the Boy Scouts in 1938. I had always wanted to join, as my elder brother was a Scout; he looked so smart in his uniform and had so much fun that I could hardly wait until I was old enough to join too. Scouts opened up new friendships, experiences and responsibilities for me. There was a phrase in the Scout Law which read ‘A Scout is a brother to every other Scout, no matter to what colour creed or class the other may belong’. This was something which impressed me very much and made me start to think about people in a different way. Up to then I don’t think I had ever met anyone who was black, foreign, or who practiced a different religion to my own (apart from Roman Catholics, who did not seem much different to me). I thought that the rules which were laid down in the Scout Law were a code of practice that should be remembered always, and I have always tried to live up to them. I enjoyed all my Scouting days and remained a member of the troupe until I was eighteen years old. The last annual camp before the war in August 1939 was at Shanklin, on the Isle of Wight.
There were about 80 Scouts plus seniors in the party, and we travelled by train overnight. This was a great adventure on its own, as many of the boys had never been on a train before. We arrived at Portsmouth in the early hours of the morning and went straight on board the ferry. We then sailed over to Ryde on the Isle of Wight, caught the train which took us to Shanklin, and from the station marched up the hill to the camping field, tired and weary from a night without much sleep. After a warm drink and some breakfast, we were allocated the tents which were to be our homes for the next fortnight. We then went to bed for a few hours. The holiday was for two weeks. As most people only had one week of annual holiday each year in those days, and most of us didn’t go away, we all felt very lucky to be there. An advance party of senior Scouts had gone on ahead a few days before the main group to erect the tents, set up the equipment for cooking, dig the toilets and arrange the water supply, which was delivered every morning in a horse-drawn water cart – how different from what is required today to meet all the present day hygiene and health and safety regulations!
The camp was well organised, with twelve bell tents, a camp kitchen and a large marquee all set out with trestle tables and chairs borrowed from the local church hall. We were woken up each morning by the sound of Reveille, and after breakfast in the marquee there would be kit inspections and working parties helping the cooks and keeping the camp tidy. There were church parades on Sunday morning, marching to and from the church. It was magic. We were taken on walks along the cliffs, had organised bathing parties in the sea and visited various places of interest on the island. There were campfire sing-songs and concerts at night. When the war began, things began to change almost at once, as some of the senior Scouts went into the armed forces and others into civil defence. For a while there were other things to worry about, with blackouts, the threat of shortages and food rationing and young people, both men and women, being called up. Gradually people accepted that life must carry on despite all the changes, and things began to settle down again. The Scouts had regular jobs collecting scrap paper and metal for the war effort, and the mums were all busy knitting scarves and socks for the troops.
We were all involved in raising money for the comforts funds and ‘Digging for Victory’ in the gardens and allotments. It kept most families busy. There were also more women going out to work in the factories, on the land and delivering the post – all the jobs that men had been doing before the war. This brought about changes in many homes, as there was more money to spend, though not so much available to spend it on. After the evacuation from Dunkirk, some of the wounded were taken to the new military hospital at Burntwood, and the Scouts were asked to give up a number of hours each week to help. We ran errands, helped the nurses on the wards, took the tea round and collected and distributed books and magazines. This went on for weeks after school each day and, when the crisis was over, the Scouts received a vote of thanks from the nursing staff and patients. We all felt very proud of what we had been able to do to help. It was about this time that our Scoutmaster suggested that we should put on a Gang Show to raise funds. He suggested the same theme as the one in the film of that name, in which Ralph Reader had featured. At first we thought it would be a bit too ambitious, but in the end we decided that the Chase Terrace Scouts would have a go anyway – so we did.
All the people who had any talent at all were called upon to contribute. The words of some of the songs from the film were altered to suit local places and the sketches were adapted to include local names and characters. There was a line up of glamour girls (all boys, of course) doing a ‘Tiller Girls’ dance routine, and monologues, written by our own author in the style of Stanley Holloway, which would have done him proud. The songs were rehearsed with the help of a local music teacher and the younger Scouts were all in the chorus. Everyone had a fantastic time; it was supported by almost everyone in the village and was a great success. We raised quite a lot of money for the Scout funds and the Red Cross, and everyone was full of praise, so much so that we were asked to put on a repeat performance at the Mining College at Cannock for a further three nights the following week. We were well received there, too and very proud, but it was very tiring. In later years there were other shows put on, but by then it had been decided that a pantomime would probably be a more suitable project, as we could then write our own script so that everyone could take part. This became the pattern over the following years. I can still remember ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’, ‘Dick Whittington’ and various others that followed. They gave as much pleasure to the people who took part in them as to those who paid to go and see them. Looking back now, I think that those productions were a wonderful thing to have happened in such a small village as Chase Terrace.
They included lots of local humour and characters, and at the time they did a lot to boost the morale of the people in the community. The Scouts also helped in other ways in the social life of the village. Each week, on Monday night, they held a whist drive at the Scout hut, which was always well attended by elder members of the community. On Friday nights they held dances, which were events where younger people could meet and socialise. As there weren’t any pubs, clubs or other places where young people could meet other than the cinema, these dances were very popular. The dances always finished at 11 o’clock, unless it was something special like the New Year’s Ball or the Easter Bonnet Dance. The only refreshments served were cups of tea provided by the ladies committee. There was a resident band from Heath Hayes called Madam Bruce’s Orchestra, who played for us every week for several years. It was the revenue from these events which helped with the upkeep of the Scout hut and also financed some of the other scouting activities which went on throughout the year. With travel restrictions, food and petrol rationing and fewer bus services, the outlook for camping holidays away from home was not very good. It was suggested that perhaps we could find a suitable site on or near to Cannock Chase, where there were lots of open spaces for the boys to enjoy themselves and explore. On the Chase itself it was difficult, as much of it at that time was privately owned or had been requisitioned by the military for training purposes, but there were still places which might be available if we could find them.
If we were to establish a proper base camp, the two most essential things were that we had to have a water supply and it had to be somewhere that we didn’t have to share with farm animals. It was at this time that we heard about a small field at Brocton, which was actually on the Chase and surrounded on three sides by hills and heather. It had a small wooden hut built on it, which the owner had put there just before the war for use as a holiday cottage. This field sounded about right for what we were looking for. The Scoutmaster and his assistants went to have a look and were surprised to find that it was even better than we had hoped. The hut was a small holiday chalet, with a covered decking area at the front where we could sit outside undercover. The field, although small, was surrounded by a thick hedge, which kept it very private. The owner was contacted, terms were agreed and we lased it for the year, with an option to renew the lease again after that. The owner of the cottage next door agreed that we could have use of his outside tap, which was only a few yards from the chalet, and a nominal fee was arranged for its use. Travelling from Chase Terrace to Brocton wasn’t considered to be a great problem as it was only about twelve miles across the Chase and, although very hilly, it was well within the capabilities of those who could ride a bicycle loaded with camping kit. The hills all around were covered with heather and bracken and stretched right down to the hedge round the field, where there were paths leading off in all directions across the Chase. It was a perfect spot for boys to spend their holidays.
There was a flat area between the camp and the road, which was about two hundred yards away, and there we could play cricket or football without causing any problems to anyone. We used that area of the Chase as our own over the next few years. I sometimes wonder whether the boys that followed on to use it later ever knew how it all began. Sometimes we dammed the stream in Sherbrook Valley to make it deep enough to bathe in. At other times, if there were enough good strong swimmers available, we went down to the river at Milford, where it was much deeper. Looking back, I think that the most fun was had in the stream at Sherbrook, where everyone enjoyed themselves and usually got very wet. The cooking was done outside over an open fire at the beginning, and so firewood needed to be gathered from the woods and hills around. The local people had told us that it was quite lawful to collect fallen timber for fuel, and so at every camp there would be parties of Scouts out collecting wood for the fire. This later became a contest to see which party brought back the most, and it was not unusual to see whole trees which had been blown over by the wind, or branches which had been broken off, being dragged back to camp ready for sawing up. This was a task in which everyone became involved sooner or later. Quite often the timber had been spotted earlier while a group of lads was out walking, the location being noted down for collection of the find at a later date. Later we added another building, a small wooden cookhouse, which was much appreciated by those on cooking duty when the weather was wet. Also later, the sloping part of the field was dug out to form a terraced area, so that more tents could be accommodated. All this work took time, but there were plenty of volunteers.
As time went on, with the arrival of American troops, there was more military activity on the Chase and there was an inquiry about the chalet being made available for their use. This was rejected on the grounds that it was being used for youth work, which was just beginning to be recognised as an important factor in the country. After this, we decided that we should consider making more use of the site, as there could be more applications made for its use in the future. After some discussion it was suggested that we should try and send a few boys to camp each weekend throughout the year, weather permitting. Two senior Scouts and four younger ones would be an ideal number and, if the weather was bad, the chalet would be used for sleeping in. As I was by now a member of the senior group, I took my turn every three or four weeks along with one other, and we looked after and supervised the younger Scouts. I think that everyone who went on these weekends enjoyed them, as it gave the younger ones a chance to practise their cooking skills and gave the seniors more responsibility. During the winter months, the weekend parties were mostly made up of senior Scouts, who slept in the chalet and cooked inside on a small wood-burning stove. We did maintenance jobs around the campsite and explored the surrounding countryside on our bikes. At night we lit the lamps and often sat up till after midnight, playing Monopoly and knock-out whist for matches. There were no transistor radios or televisions in those days, but we were never bored as there was always  had something to do. We had some great times.
During the war years, when going away on holidays was more difficult, both Brocton and Milford Common became very popular places to visit at the weekend. If the weather was fine, walkers and cyclists would arrive, and there would be groups of people sitting around on the grass having picnics in the fresh air, eating sandwiches and enjoying pots of tea which could be bought at some of the cottages nearby. There would be games of rounders and cricket in progress, and the children would play ball on the grass. It was a place where groups of friends could meet and enjoy a day in the open air after a week at work, and some of them would sometimes join in with the Scouts playing a game of cricket or football. Many afternoons were spent this way in the summer months, and it was here in the spring of 1944 that I first met Janet, the girl whom I was later to marry. She visited the Chase with her family most weekends in the summer months on her bicycle, and she loved the outdoors as much as I did. How we met is another story, but it was to be the most important meeting of my life.
Those Were The Days!
You’re really showing your age if you remember any of this. So, do you recall the days when...
All schoolgirls wore gymslips and navy blue knickers?
It took five minutes for the TV to warm up?
Nearly everyone’s mum was at home when the kids got home from school?
Nobody owned a pedigree dog?
When 3d was a decent amount of pocket money?
You’d reach into a muddy gutter for a penny?
Women wore nylons that came in two pieces?
All your male teachers wore ties and female teachers had their hair done every day and wore high heels?
When you pulled into a garage, you got your car’s windscreen wiped, your oil checked, and they put the petrol in for you, without asking, all for free, every time? And you didn’t pay for air? And you got trading stamps to boot?
Large packets of washing powder had free glasses, dishes or towels hidden inside the box?
It was considered a great privilege to be taken out to dinner at a real rstaurant with your parents?
They threatened to keep kids back a year if they failed – and they did it?
When if you had a girl/boyfriend, you were ‘courting’?
No one ever asked where the car keys were because they were always in the car, in the ignition, and the doors were never locked?
And no-one locked their front doors either, largely because there was probably nothing in the house worth stealing?
Lying on your back in the grass with your friends and saying things like, ‘That cloud looks like a...’?
Playing cricket or football with no adults around insisting on helping kids with the rules of the game?
Stuff from the chemist came without safety caps! And there were no hermetic seals, because no-one had yet tried to poison a perfect stranger?
Being sent to the head’s office for punishment was nothing compared to the fate that awaited you when you got home?
Entertainment meant Mr Pastry, Andy Pandy, 6.5 Special, The Army Game, Sunday Night at the London Palladium, Emergency Ward 10, The Lone Ranger, Hancock’s Half Hour and Sergeant Bilko?
You spent your pocket money on sweet cigarettes, Blackjacks, bubble gum with collectable cards, peashooters, 45 RPM and 78 RPM records and Scalextric?
Decisions were made by going ‘eeny-meeny-miney-moe’?
‘Race issue’ meant arguing about who ran the fastest?
Catching tiddlers could happily occupy an entire day?
It wasn’t odd to have two or three ‘best friends’?
The worst thing you could catch from the opposite sex was chickenpox?
‘Having a weapon in school’ meant being caught with a catapult?
Saturday morning kids’ television wasn’t just comprised of 30-minute adverts for action figures?
Spinning around, getting dizzy, and falling down was cause for giggles?
The worst embarrassment was being picked last for a team?
War was a card game?
Cigarette cards in the spokes transformed any bike into a motorcycle?
Water balloons were the ultimate weapon?
And with all our progress, don’t you just wish, just once, you could slip back in time and savour the slower pace, and share it with the children of today?
This Issue’s Cover Photograph St. Augustine’s Church, Rugeley
Rugeley’s parish church, dedicated to St Augustine, is described on the Genuki website as ‘a large, handsome fabric, in a mixed style of architecture, erected in 1822, near the old parish church, which was a small ancient edifice, of which the tower and chancel still remain’. The church is notable for having many links to the notorious Rugeley poisoner, William Palmer. Although Palmer himself is buried at Stafford Gaol, the graves of some of his victims and others who were involved in his story are still to be seen in the churchyard of St. Augustine’s.