Burntwood Family History Group
   Home      Journal 2010 10-12 Volume 19 Number 1
Extracts from Burntwood Family History Group Journal

Oct - Dec 2010

Vol. 19 No. 1
Contents of this issue.
 From the Editor
Chairman’s 2010 report to the AGM
News from the Secretary
Burntwood’s Servicemen
Will the 2011 Census be the Last?
Reviews of Guest Speakers
Have You a Nutter in Your Family?
In Memoriam
A Hundred-Year Wait for Consecration
Results of Members’ Survey
This Issue’s Cover Photograph
From the Editor...
Usually each edition of the Journal opens with a letter from your Chairperson, but I feel that this issue I should make an exception and pen an editorial on this page, as I owe you, the Group’s members and readers of the Journal, an explanation for the lateness of this issue. The normal course of events in putting together each issue would be that Jan Green, my partner and co-editor, would receive all of the material, compile it and do an initial edit. She would then pass it on to me and I would do a final edit and polish and then design the actual pages. However, Jan was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year and her treatment was causing her so much discomfort that she was unable to work on her computer. At the same time, helping Jan and a heavy personal workload was keeping me too busy to start work on the Journal on my own. Then, in October, Jan suddenly and unexpectedly passed away, despite the fact that her treatment seemed to be going well. Needless to say, an already late Journal was put well and truly on the back burner after that, and only now have I been able to bring myself to resume work on it (and to realise just how much work Jan used to put into preparing the material before I ever received it). However, Jan would not have wanted me to let the Group down, so here the Journal is, two months late, but better late than never. To get the publication schedule back to something resembling normal isn’t going to be easy, but if you have anything you would like to contribute to future issues, could you please now send it directly to me at brian@aryxia.freeserve.co.uk, or alternatively send it via the general Group contact address found on the inside front cover. I’ll need it fairly soon for the next issue! Thanks for your patience. Brian Asbury
Chairman’s 2010 report to the AGM
2009/10 has been another successful year for Burntwood Family History Group. The Monday meetings have, on the whole, been very well attended and we continue to offer help and research facilities at the Thursday meetings . We have been fortunate to receive three lots of grant aid this year. Burntwood Town Council awarded us £100 to be used towards the payment of speakers. Staffordshire County Council Adult and Community Learning Service cover the cost of renting the meeting rooms at the Old Mining College which has been our main expenditure in the past. This meant that we could book both the computer suite and the small meeting room for Thursday meetings, allowing us to have our library books available with the microfiche and readers in the small room while others were engaged upstairs using the computers. Recently we have decided to book the community room for the Thursday meeting to give us more space. Pam Woodburn and Barbara Williams have taken on the task of applying for the grants and we appreciate their efforts. Another grant from Staffordshire County Council helped us to buy a more up to date microfiche reader for use by our transcribers involved with the parish registers project. Thanks to all the people who work to make the meetings successful.

The Group’s website, created and managed by Alan Betts, has changed beyond recognition. It is now a great local resource with dozens of photographs of the surrounding area as well as all the information included previously. He has also included some advertisements for local businesses, so if you make use of any of them, please mention where you saw their advertisement. Many thanks to Alan for all his hard work. He must have clocked up a lot of miles on his travels to take the photographs.
Work on our transcription project is now in its 14th year. Due to changes in computer technology, we now sell mainly CD-ROMs. The latest work is the transcription of the parish records of St. Mary’s Church, Lichfield. Progress is very slow as the early records are extremely difficult to read. Mike Woolridge is the organiser of this work and he has a small group of transcribers and checkers working with him. If anyone would like to help, Mike would be pleased to welcome them and help them to get started. My thanks go to all of you who take part with this rewarding task. Bernard Daniels continues to produce the actual CDs and I thank him on your behalf. Barbara Williams takes the orders for discs placed via the Internet or by post and sends them off to the customers. Our CDs and microfiche are not so much in demand now that so much information can be accessed online. However, it is always worth checking on what we have available in our collection. Steve Bailey brings everything to Thursday meetings and looks after them at home between times. Thanks, Steve, for your help.
This year we have a new treasurer, Jeff Wilson, who has continued to keep us fully up to date with the financial position of the group. Thanks for your work on our behalf, Jeff. Geoff Colverson continues to look after our library which increases each year despite the storage problems which continue to be insoluble. If anyone can offer help in this area we should be most grateful. Thank you, Geoff, for your time and help.
Our speakers have on the whole been interesting and informative this year. The costs have risen slightly, but usually they are affordable and, on odd occasions, people do not make a charge. The booking of speakers is now being done by Carole Jones, who would be interested to hear if you know of anyone who might offer a good talk. Thank you, Carole, for your contribution. The Christmas social was well attended and, thanks to Jenny Lee who made the arrangements, we also had an enjoyable lunch at the Wych Elm. This year we have been invited to attend several events where we take along our CDs and other literature. These are very pleasant occasions and we now have some impressive display boards full of information to help anyone just starting out on research. We made another visit to the National Archives at Kew in May, which was a great success due to the hard work of Jenny Lee, who made the bookings and arrangements that ensured people who needed to obtain or update reader’s cards were given the forms beforehand, saving a lot of hassle when we arrived. The coach was full, mainly due to support from members of Cannock Wood and Gentleshaw Gardening Guild, who came along to visit Kew Gardens. Thank you, Jenny, for your help. We are looking into the possibility of running two trips next year, but we would need your support to make it viable and also help with the organisation.
Our Honorary Secretary has, as ever, worked extremely hard in supporting all aspects of the running the group. He tirelessly produces booklets of members’ interests, lists of members’ details and even a list of all our library books and research aides. All this takes up a lot of time and effort, so we decided to make more use of the website and have put all the information on it instead of producing paper versions. I would like to express our thanks to Geoff for his unfailing support. Thanks must also go to Maureen Hemmingsley for her work as Minutes Secretary. She makes sure we are all furnished with agendas and relevant minutes for committee meetings besides contributing new ideas. Many thanks also to Brian Asbury and Jan Green for all their work in producing the quarterly Journal. Please keep the articles coming to make their task easier. If anyone has ideas for articles please let us know. You will have noticed the new look and, I am sure, admired it. The cover is most attractive and it is well worth the extra cost involved to produce a much more professional Journal. Sheila Clarke volunteered to write précis of the content of the talk given at each meeting and these then go into the Journal for the members who are unable to attend. However, we do need a stand-in for Sheila on the occasions she is unable to be present. Thanks go to Barbara Williams and anyone else who has helped to sell raffle tickets or has provided prizes. If anyone would like to donate prizes for the raffle Barbara will be delighted to receive them. She is also in charge of selling the CDs, so if you wish to purchase any, please contact her. The system devised to make sure no one gets landed with the dreaded chore of making and serving the refreshments too often has worked quite well, so thanks to anyone who has taken their turn this year. Thanks to Jenny Lee, who does the shopping, and to everyone who helps.
We have continued to run drop-in sessions at Lichfield Library on a monthly basis. Volunteers have been kept very busy offering help and advice. There was a drop in attendance figures in June and July, but I think this was due to people being busy with summer activities. The group meeting at the St. Mary’s Centre in Lichfield continues to prosper, thanks to Bob Houghton, who gives a lot of time to helping them and would welcome new helpers. A new group has been formed at Norton Canes and one at Shenstone, and we wish them well. They have asked to be affiliated to us and we are looking at the possibilities and how we may be able to help them.
We still offer for sale copies of a magazine, Family History Monthly, at our meetings. The cost is £3.75 per magazine and the group makes £1.12 profit on each sale. The magazine has been praised by the members who buy it on a regular basis and each month we sell around nine copies. This is yet another way to help boost our funds, so if you haven’t purchased one yet, do think about it as they really are most informative.
To end with I would like to thank you all for your support while I have been group’s chairman. I shall still be around and will serve on the committee to support my successor. I am sure the Group will continue to go from strength to strength in the coming years. Thank you. Jane Leake
News from the Secretary
(incorporating parts of report to the AGM) This year’s AGM saw the end of an era with the departure from the Chairmanship of Jane Leake. Jane will be a hard act to follow. Since the Group was formed in 1986 with Jane, Membership No. 1, as a founder member, she has been Chair of our group for most of the subsequent 24 years. Her occupancy of the chair was not continuous, as the position was taken by several others for short periods before it was realised that nobody did the job quite like Jane did it. Thank you, Jane, for all the hard work you have put in on behalf of the Group over all those years. I am sure that in due course, Jane will receive recognition of her services in a tangible form.
When I reviewed the group’s activities at the 2009 AGM, I was able to present a healthy situation so far as the accomplishments of the group during the year were concerned. Once again I am able to say that, due to the enthusiasm and hard work put in by your Committee, and those of you who offer your services to help out on various occasions, we have had another successful year.
Membership renewals
Membership continues to increase, and at the end of the 2008–9 year we had 128 members on our books. About 30 per cent of the membership comes from outside the local area and we have three members overseas, two in Canada and one in Australia. Having said that, the current membership is just over 100 and, although I expect there will be some new members through the year, it is possible that we shall not maintain the steady increase in membership that has been evident since our foundation. Response to the renewal of membership reminder sent out with the July Journal was quite satisfactory (70% received before the AGM) and any revised information will be used to update our databases. If you haven’t renewed yet and intend to do so, please remember that the Journal will be sent only to those on the 2010–11 Register of Members after this one . If you do not get a Journal in January 2011 and believe that you have paid your subscription, please contact the Hon. Treasurer quoting your Membership N. and the date and amount of your cheque. If you paid cash, you should have areceipt from the Hon. Treasurer as proof of payment.
Survey of members’ views
The July issue of the Journal included a questionnaire for completion primarily by distant members who are unable to attend meetings or take part in the local activities of the group. The response so far has been very good and I have received 21 completed questionnaires. There are a few interesting facts beginning to emerge from your answers and these are a few of the salient points established from the results so far collected:
No one under 50 years old has completed a form. 75% came from over 60’s.
66% have been members for more than five years. Only 15% work full time.
Only one distant member has been on a group visit.
More than 50% thought the Journal content and quality was very good and no-one thought either quality or content were less than ‘quite good’.
Use of research materials by distant members is patchy and only the Group’s CD PR transcriptions, the website and the Member’s Interests printed list are consistently recorded as being used to any great extent.
Everyone so far thinks the annual subscription is ‘about right’.
Hopefully there a still a few more to come in, and elsewhere in this issue I will give a complete summary of the results for each of the questions asked. Those of you who made comments and suggestions will have their views aired in the Journal in due course, but I promise not to mention any names! There were many good comments about the new website and one or two were good enough to explain why you would not be renewing your membership. We do understand that research can go off in different directions and we are happy to know that even a short stay with us has led to some expansion of your family tree in our area. We wish you the best of luck in the future.
Surname interests
As your Hon. Sec., I deal with the day to day correspondence and much of this involves answering enquiries regarding surname interests. I would like to say that we are continually trying to improve the research facilities that we provide, and I would like to thank Bernard Daniels for providing a facility to access our local transcribed records which enables me to locate surnames that I am asked about. I deal with such enquiries regularly, many from non-members who contact us through our website. What would we all do without our computers? Well, we would use pen and paper, and some people still do write with their queries, even though they have found out about us from the website. However, the Members’ Interests List and the Research Materials Index will not be published as booklets in the future, as our new website will be supplied with the databases for both and will be continuously updated as necessary. We are aware that there are still members who do not have access to the internet, but rest assured that if you have a problem in not being able to access information which you need and think is available from the group, you can make a written request or telephone call to me and I will provide what you require – provided it is available on my databases or within our research materials. This service is available to subscribed members who do not have access to our website.
Other services
Our Thursday meeting is now well established and, although it is sometimes sparsely attended, I know from experience that often people come on a Thursday with what looks like a comparatively simple task which turns out to be full of pitfalls and disappointments. Whilst the modern trend towards more and more research information being available on the internet provides us with the opportunity to utilise that facility, it can prove a frustrating exercise. I often spend most of the evening trying to find a particular person for whom a member has accurate and indisputable information, only to find that online records consulted come up with ‘no results’. Transcription errors are undoubtedly responsible for some of the difficulties, and I often have to recommend a visit to a Record Repository where the original records can be consulted. One of the services we have always provided for our members has been coach trips to London. At one time we were able to fill a coach three times a year for a trip to Central London or Kew, but these days it is a struggle to fill a coach once – and only because Kew Gardens is also a popular venue. My experiences of the internet as a research aid lead me to think that the subscription required by Ancestry, etc., before you can see the full records would be much better spent on trips to London, where it is possible to see everything for free. You could have five separate days out and several hours at the National Archives on each day for what it costs to obtain information from the internet. Think about it next time we have a coach trip. For further information on our coach trips, contact Jennie Lee.
Forthcoming events
Next year will be our Silver Anniversary, so look out for news of a new project or some special publication to commemorate the event. No doubt we shall be looking for volunteers to take part in something or other. The December Monday meeting will be the Christmas Social Evening and I am sure that, as usual, a good time will be had by all. We also usually arrange a Christmas dinner at a local restaurant or pub, and everyone is invited to come along. We often find it better to have it between Christmas and New Year, as everywhere is heavily booked and rather expensive in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
Burntwood’s Servicemen
Following on from newest the pages on the Group’s website, ‘Photographs Of War Memorials In Our Vicinity’ (www.bfhg.org.uk/Photographs-of-War-Memorials-in-our-Vicinity.php), we are now starting a new project. We will be researching servicemen from Burntwood, who served and lost their lives during the First World War (www.bfhg.org.uk/Burntwood%27s-Servicemen.php). Pam Woodburn, our vice-chair, will be leading a team of volunteer members, who will be examining the war memorials in Burntwood that we have already photographed and have transcribed the names thereon, and the team will be researching those individuals named. Each volunteer member will research a serviceman who lost his life and learn as much detail about him as possible, for example: which of the Armed Forces he served in; the theatre of war in which he fought; where and how he lost his life; his life before he became a serviceman; who his family were. Te aim is to create a book of mini-biographies to form a lasting record and a memorial to those who lost their lives. We have made appeals in local newspapers to anyone who has information on any serviceman from  Burntwood who died in the First World War. You may even be a descendant of a serviceman who lost his life. If you have any information, photographs, documents or medals of a serviceman from Burntwood who died in the First World War, then please contact Pam at pam.woodburn@talktalk.net or ring her on 01543 684208. Or if you are a member who wishes to join Pam’s team of researchers (you don’t have to live locally), then again please contact Pam. Alternatively, you can use the Group’s contact email address (enquiries@bfhg.org.uk) and your details or information will be forwarded on to Pam.
Will the 2011 Census be the Last?
The practice of holding an official population count, or Census, was begun in the early 19th Century, and the censuses from 1841, the first to actually list names, have been among the most valuable items in the genealogist’s armoury. Last year’s launch of the 1911 survey proved very popular with people around the world researchers, with millions of people accessing the database within months. It contains over 16 million original 1911 census documents. Future family researchers, however, may not be so lucky, as there is now a possibility that the Census may be scrapped, after Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude announced recently that the huge survey was an expensive and inefficient way of working out the population of Britain. In July of this year, Mr. Maude told the Daily Telegraph: “There are, I believe, ways of doing this which will provide better, quicker information, more frequently and cheaper.” The coalition government has, from the start, been obsessed with cutting public spending costs, and it appears that no institution is safe. Alternative ways of gathering census-style data are being considered, using sources such as public and private databases, possibly from credit reference agencies and the Royal Mail. Since 1801, Britain has held a census every ten years, the only exception being in 1941, which was cancelled due to the Second World War, and the next one is due to take place in March of 2011. This, however, might well be the last one, as Mr Maude said that the census, which will cost the Government an estimated £482 million, was “out of date almost before it had been done”. Making population counts from the organisations like the Royal Mail, councils and data held by the Government itself, he said, “would give you more accurate, much more timely data in real time. There is a load of data out there in loads of different places.” This could also allow population statistics to be gathered more regularly than the present ten-year cycle. The present system does have obvious drawbacks in that not all of the required information is collected. About 1.5 million households failed to fill in their forms during the last count in 2001. However, it appears that the Census may still survive in some form or another. A spokesman for the Cabinet Office said: “The Government is examining whether after 2011 there are different ways of getting this information but no decision has been taken.”
Reviews of Guest Speakers’ Talks
July 2010: Liz Street on ‘The Worst of Crimes is Poverty’ - Reviewer: Pam Woodburn
Liz Street works in the Stafford Record Office and she came to talk to us about the various forms of documentation that could be found and used to put flesh on the bones of our ancestors. Her talk was a combination of local and social history. She started by explaining that there were plenty of surviving records for the rich, who were able to write about themselves, and many also for the poor, who were written about by other people, but fewer for the people in the middle! Her brief was to give an overview of life for the poor, and she did this with many useful illustrations of numerous documents relating to Staffordshire. The first document examined was an indenture issued for an early bankruptcy case and it led on to a description of social and living conditions in the past. She described how poverty could cause ill health through inadequate diet and unsanitary living conditions, and mention was made of philanthropic societies that existed at the time. The poor were divided into different categories: the ‘deserving poor’, the ‘undeserving poor’ and the ‘impotent poor’. The Overseer of the Poor was responsible for the poor of each parish and it was his responsibility to deal with the removal or settlement of poor people within that parish. We were shown examples of removal and settlement orders and Liz explained how these were issued and used. Military service was discussed, and the way that the militia was organised, with more documents used to illustrate the way that men were recruited and how their families were supported while they were away from home. Illegitimacy, and the way that this was dealt with within the parish, came next, with a description of how the law changed as time progressed. These cases were dealt with by the local magistrate and two types of document were issued, depending upon the circumstances – one when dealing with the case of an unborn child, and another in the case of a living child. In the case of a living child, a maintenance order could be issued, and in the case of an unborn child, a bastardy bond. The payments were made to and administered by the Parish Overseer, and examples of documents dealing with these situations were shown. Apprenticeship was dealt with next. She showed us examples of an apprenticeship register and also explained the rules and conditions of apprenticeship. The Poor Law and workhouses followed, with an explanation of how conditions changed after the Poor law Amendment Act in 1834. Rotten boroughs were abolished in 1832 and Poor Law Unions formed. We were shown examples of documents to illustrate other aspects of poverty, including prisons, Friendly Societies, widows and orphans of deceased clergymen, Benevolent Societies for the lying-in of women, school records within the workhouses, Guardian’s minutes concerning the paupers’ personal circumstances, and even a police charge book. All in all, we were given a wealth of information, and possible new leads to consider in our own research, for which we were very grateful to Liz.
August 2010: Ann French on ‘WWII – rationing and evacuation’ - Reviewer: Sheila Clarke
Ann French used slides of photographs dating from the 1930s and 1940s to illustrate her interesting talk. It brought back many memories for our members who experienced those times, and younger members were given some idea of what it was like for parents and grandparents who lived in the Walsall area during the war. Her first slide showed a newspaper advertisement from 1936 for women’s fashions on sale at Wilson’s Department store, which, at the time, was in a Walsall arcade. She pointed out that the women depicted had their arms raised in a Fascist salute and that Sir Oswald Moseley was at that time due to give a talk in Walsall. Fascist flags and Union Jacks lined the Walsall streets and, although there were protests against the visit, and letters for and against in the newspapers, the event passed off peacefully. The following photograph showed a first aid lesson being conducted in Walsall Arboretum, just before the war. Many residents laughed at these, but the doubters were castigated in the newspapers, where it was pointed out that we would be grateful for first aiders in any coming war. Walsall received supplies of gas masks, and wardens were appointed to distribute them – but when the masks were unpacked, parts of their face pieces were missing. In the end, wardens and volunteers assembled the masks, and Mrs French showed a photo of them doing so. Parents of small babies were supplied with gas protectors in which the infants had to be placed, with a bellows mechanism supplying air. Fortunately we did not have to test these out for real, as it would have been difficult to continue using the bellows for any length of time. We were shown a picture of a resident digging a hole to take his air raid shelter. Precise instructions were given as to the size and position of the hole, so that no services would be breached. Walsall was in the second tranche of cities to receive Andersen Shelters, because of its close proximity to Birmingham. The shelters were free for those with an income below £250 per annum, as was the digging of the hole for the elderly, infirm and widows. Young men were shown volunteering for the army at Whittington Barracks. The newspaper reported that they were dressed smartly and with their shoes polished. The evacuation of children, and women with babies began in September 1939. Five hundred children were expected in the first group, but in the event only 300 turned up. They had been given a list of clothing to pack, together with a knife, fork and spoon and a packed lunch apiece. They were also given a food parcel to give to their foster parents. One would think that they would need to travel a long way, but the destinations included Brewood and Penkridge. This proximity to Walsall created difficulties, because on the first weekend so many parents descended on the foster families and sat in their houses all day, so it was decided to open church halls as meeting venues. Some children decided to return home, and two brothers walked from the foster home to Walsall, causing great alarm. Their sister did not fancy the walk, so did not accompany her brothers. Parents had to pay ten shillings and sixpence a week for each first child, with a reduction for subsequent children. A second evacuation was planned, but most children had returned home by Christmas of 1939. Many public buildings were boarded up and we saw photos of workmen securing St Matthew’s Church. In February 1940, Britain endured the worst winter for many years, with snow piled high along the streets for weeks. This was ironic, as ‘British Summer Time’ had just been introduced. Double Summer Time was started in 1942. Food ration cards were distributed on 23rd November 1939, and people had to register with a particular grocer by January 1st 1940. Later customers had to register with a particular butcher of their choice, too. In 1940 the rations included 2 ounces of tea per person per week. In 1941, cheese ration was 1oz per person, and rarely throughout the war did it rise above 4 oz. To supplement the meat ration, ‘Pig Clubs’ sprang up throughout Britain, with the number peaking at 6,900. Ann had photographs of local Pig Clubs. Members created pigsties from scrap materials or used redundant buildings for their pigs. The Bloxwich club, founded in September 1941, had twenty men and one woman member, and every member paid a subscription to belong to it. After slaughter, which had to be done by an experienced slaughter man, half of every pig went to the Ministry of Food, to supplement the nation’s diet. Members were trained in jointing the carcass and the preparation of sausages and other pork and bacon products. Pig Clubs enabled the meat ration to be increased over time. The Ministry produced leaflets advising cooks on the most economical and nutritious way of preparing the available food. Allotments were encouraged and volunteers were recruited to dig vegetable plots for widows and the wives of servicemen. Schools, too, were encouraged to grow food. In 1943, Hillary Street School had its own piggery, poultry and rabbit pens. British restaurants became popular and saved on precious cooking fuel. Restaurants in Walsall included one in Upper Forster Street, a photo of which showed state-of-the-art cooking equipment which cost £3,000, and which catered for 250 people. Meals cost 10d and a cup of tea 1d. Twenty-four full time staff and a number of part-timers prepared food for the general public, and office and factory workers. Later, another restaurant opened in Darlaston Road. Ann showed several photographs of the effects of the bombs dropped around the Walsall area. One dropped into a canal, and a young man was shown with several fish which had been catapulted onto the towpath. A bizarre picture was of a jolly looking crowd in a large hole. This was a huge bomb crater and the people were searching for souvenirs! Some factories and schools were hit, as were houses. The press emphasised the positive, as when a family with ten children survived an almost direct hit on their shelter because they had decided to leave it and make their way into the house before the bomb struck. In 1941, Morrison shelters were introduced. Disguised as a dining table, this shelter was designed for those whose gardens were too small for an Anderson shelter and who had no public shelter nearby. Photos were shown of men who saved the Pleck gas holder from exploding when it was hit by one bomb which detonated and another which failed to go off. Richard Hateley climbed the gas holder to plug the holes. He was awarded the George medal and his colleagues Fred Thicket and Thomas Pierce were given the British Empire Medal. The WVS did sterling work, including sending parcels to prisoners of war and organising a hostel in Bradford Street with 23 beds. Members of the Walsall Auxiliary Fire Service lost their lives helping at Coventry after their severe raid. The first Day Nursery in the area was started in Darlaston, catering for 15 children between one and two and 35 children between three and five. The charge was 1 shilling per day per child. In time, more nurseries opened. We saw a picture of the first woman train guard, taken in July 1942, and women training to be plumbers. American servicemen were stationed at Pheasey in the unallocated houses on the uncompleted housing estate there. There were mixed feelings about the American presence, though they were popular with the girls. This brought its own problems, such as when a crowd of girls invaded the army camp and pelted the police with stones when they came to remove them. The girls, some aged as young as 15 but including married women also, were fined 20s each by Walsall magistrates. The American soldiers gave parties for the little children and people were very sympathetic towards them because they were far from home. There were six cinemas in Walsall during the war, and queues were frequent for popular films starring favourites such as James Mason and Margaret Lockwood, or James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. The Spitfire fund collected money to build fighter planes. Walsall collected enough to have two planes with ‘Walsall’ printed on their side. Schools also collected money to go towards the cost of warships and had a competition to build model ships as an incentive. Unfortunately, one of the ships collected for was hit by two torpedoes on 25th February 1944 and sank, leaving only two survivors. Finally, we saw photographs of Walsall street and factory parties celebrating VE day. Ann French’s illustrated talk gave us an idea of life during wartime and how people on the whole worked together for the common good. Mrs. French has written several books about Walsall life.
Church Newsletters
Oh, dear. A bit of space at the bottom of this page. That can only mean yet another cringe-making selection of genuine bloopers from church newsletters and bulletins:-
Ladies, don’t forget the rummage sale. It’s a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Don’t forget your husbands.
Barbara remains in the hospital and needs blood donors for more transfusions. She is also having trouble sleeping and requests tapes of Pastor Jack’s sermons.
Next Sunday Mrs. Vinson will be soloist for the morning service. The pastor will then speak on ‘It’s a Terrible Experience.’
Have You a Nutter in Your Family? - by Roger Smethers
Some time ago I submitted an article to the BFHG Journal in which I described the potential usefulness of placing letters in newspapers distributed in areas where one’s ancestors had lived. Following my letter to the Clitheroe Advertiser, one of the several responses I received was from a couple living in a small village on the edge of the Forest of Bowland. Their name, Howard, was certainly of interest to me, though at the time the relationship was not known. I said that the next time I was up that way, I would try to call on them. That time duly arrived. We were staying at a rural hotel a short walk from where another ancestral family had lived; this was not deliberately chosen, but a pleasant bonus. But back to the Howards. We reached their village, having received directions to their farm, but we could not find it. As the lane was uncomfortably narrow, my wife drove on, looking for a place to turn around. Voila! There was an old house being renovated and, surely, there would be someone who knew the farm we sought. I introduced myself to the very large chap who came to the door. He certainly knew the farm we were after and said, “You must have passed it already; it’s just down in the dip. So you’re related to Jim? He’s a very nice chap, but do you know that his wife’s a nutter?”
Now, what should one say in this situation? I couldn’t think of anything; so I believe I just nodded and grunted, then thanked him and went off to visit the Howards. We decided not to mention what had just transpired up the road. Less than a minute later we were introducing ourselves to our new relatives and viewing their home. All the time I had in my mind this ‘nutter’ business. Then, without any prompt from me, Jean told us that her maiden name was Nutter with a capital N, and that her family had always passed on the belief that Alice Nutter, one of the ‘Pendle Witches’, was an ancestor. The Pendle Witches were thirteen men and women who were charged at Preston in 1612 of murdering seventeen people by witchcraft. Ten were hanged, one of whom was Alice.
My connection with Alice is a very tenuous and unlikely one, but it would be quite something to have a genuine witch in the family!
In Memoriam
Since the last edition of the Journal appeared in July, the Group has suffered the loss of three valuable members:
Val Banks It was with great sorrow that we heard of the death of Val Banks early in September. Val was a member of the Burntwood Family History Group for many years and made a big contribution towards the running of the Group by selling books and magazines at our monthly meetings. We remember her with a smile for everyone and members were very sorry to hear that she had been diagnosed with cancer some years ago. Our thoughts and sympathy go out to her family at this sad time.
Jan Green As already recorded elsewhere in this Journal, Jan passed away suddenly in October. Although she had been diagnosed with cancer in July, she was in the last week of her treatment and had been told that the prognosis was excellent for a full recovery. We do not yet know why she died. Jan joined the Group in 2003 and had co-edited the Journal from the May, 2004 issue onward. She was always very pro-active in making the Journal as good a publication as it could possibly be. She was greatly loved by all who knew her, and a tribute to her can be found on our website at www.bfhg.org.uk/P-035.php
Stan Fussell Stan was a member of the Group for a number of years but was unable to attend meetings in recent times due to his deteriorating health. He was an active participant in the Group’s activities from the time he joined us and was Chairman for a couple of years before his health enforced his retirement. Stan was a great character with a good sense of humour even when he must have been suffering from his ailments. The condolences of the Committee and all members who knew Stan go to his widow Betty and the rest of their family in their sad loss.
A Hundred-Year Wait for Consecration - submitted by Alan Betts from an article in the Cannock Chase Post
A Staffordshire Church built 108 years ago has finally received official recognition from the Lichfield Diocese. In May of this year, St John’s Church, in Heath Hayes, Cannock, was consecrated as the parish church of Heath Hayes by the Bishop of Wolverhampton, the Rt. Revd. Clive Gregory, and the Revd. Leah Vasey- Saunders was inducted as the church’s first vicar. Originally built in 1902 as a mission church for the then mining village of Heath Hayes, St John’s was originally part of the parish of Cannock – first as a daughter church and then as a church within the Cannock Team Ministry. However, the Lichfield Diocese has redrawn the boundaries in Cannock, abolishing the team ministry to create a number of individual parishes, including the parish of Heath Hayes. Speaking at the consecration, Bishop Gregory said: “For over 100 years, the people in this vicinity have considered this as their church and its minister as their vicar. They may be flabbergasted to know their vicar wasn’t a vicar and their church wasn’t a parish church. And many might think only the Church of England could make such a big fuss about something which doesn’t appear to change much.” He went on to say that the consecration provide the congregation with an opportunity to celebrate and give thanks for what God is doing in Heath Hayes, and as an opportunity to redefine the mission and purpose of the church and its relationships with other parishes. “My prayers is that the changes that may gradually happen as a result of this consecration and induction will bring blessings to this church and enable it to fulfil its calling as a spiritual house and a vibrant centre of God’s mission in this parish,” concluded Bishop Gregory. For more information on St John’s Church, you can visit their website at: www.stjohnsheathhayes.org.uk
Results of Members’ Survey - by Geoff Sorrell
Distant members of the Group were invited to complete a questionnaire which was sent out with the July 2010 Journal. Thirty-three questionnaires were sent and 21 were returned. 80% of the distant members who returned their forms were 60 or over. None were under 50. Only one had a ‘Family’ membership. All completed forms were from residents of the UK, none were from overseas. Three respondents were in work, 13 were retired and the rest were ‘other’. 35% had been members for 5 or more years. 20% had attended at least one Group meeting but only one had taken part in a visit (by coach or own transport). All respondents received their Journal regularly. 65% thought the content of the Journal was ‘very good’, 35% thought it was ‘good’. 60% thought the Journal quality was ‘very good’, 40% thought it was ‘good’. A series of questions were asked about use of the Group’s research facilities: Only 5% had ever used microfiches, 25% used CDs ‘a lot’, 30% used them ‘a few times’ and 45% ‘never’, 85% had never used library books and everyone had used our website either ‘often’ or ‘a few times’. Just over 50% used the Members’ Interest List ‘a lot’ or ‘a few times’ and 40% used the Research Materials Index ‘a lot’ or ‘a few times’. 60% had email contact with the Group ‘a few times’ and 55% had postal contact with the Group ‘a few times’. 100% of respondents thought that the current subscription rate to the Group was ‘about right’ (the alternatives were ‘too high’ or ‘too low’!) Respondents were invited to make individual comments, and some of these were quite interesting. Use of the Group’s research materials by distant members is possible but, because of the risks involved in committing valuable material to the Royal Mail’s delivery service, it is quite expensive. You may have seen elsewhere in the Journal that we are no longer publishing booklets of Members’ Surname Interests or Research Materials Index. However, because so much of our local information is now in digital form, distant Members can email me (gassor33@talktalk.net) or write to the address which appears in the Journal on the back cover) with requests for help tracing people who are likely to be in the Parish Registers that we have transcribed, or in other records which we have in our Library. This service is for members who are too far away to be able to attend our Thursday meetings, where most material is readily available. Non-members may be asked to pay a fee to the Group for the service. The website has been greatly improved over the past few months and there is far more information now on the local area which may be of interest to those who mentioned the lack of such information. If anyone would like to contribute articles for the Journal about the local area, I am sure lots of our distant members would really appreciate detailed information. Quite a few of our distant members have not renewed their membership for the current year but made very complimentary comments about our set-up. We quite understand that the area of interest can shift once a certain point has been reached, but hopefully the website will enable people to keep track of us even though they are not members any longer. One respondent was generous in praise of the Journal and particularly of the reviews of talks which appear in it. Because the survey was ‘anonymous’, I don’t know who it was, but it was mentioned that a visit to Chasetown was planned for August 2010. If that visit took place, we hope you enjoyed it and that you managed to come to one of our meetings. Another comment was ‘It would be good to see something about the mining heritage of our area in the Journal or on the website’. We have included lots of extracts from Alan Brookes’s book ‘Arising from Coal Dust’ in past Journals, and also biographical notes from Eric Evans about his past life in Chase Terrace. We have quite a few back numbers of the Journal in which these articles appear and if anyone would like copies, please write or email me and I will sort something out for you. For those of you who have found the CD transcription so useful, this is an ongoing project and there will be further additions in the future. A former member who has not renewed her subscription, but who was very complimentary about the St. Chad’s transcription and the Journal, has offered her services to anyone in the Group with interests in County Durham or North Yorkshire. This lady has now moved on to other areas in her research. If anyone in the Group feels that she may be able to help them, contact me for her postal address as this is the way she would prefer to be contacted. Last, but not least, a very concise and to-the-point comment: ‘I would love to go on a trip to Kew but the logistics are no good’! I know exactly what is meant here, but unfortunately our coach company is limited in how much mileage their drivers can cover without infringing ‘hours’ rules, so we can only take people from the local area. Some years ago we used to pick up members of a family history group from Coventry on the way, but the additional time involved would probably make this impracticable now, as the coach drivers are often pushed to the limit when they leave their depot at 6.30 am and they don’t get back until 10.00 pm.
This Issue’s Cover Photograph - St Stephen’s Church, Fradley (photograph by Jan Green)
St Stephen’s Church, Fradley, was built in 1861 at the urging of the Vicar of Alrewas, Revd R.H. Hazlehurst, and it was intended as a ‘chapel of ease’ rather than a church. In the mid-19th century, the local people of Fradley wished to worship and be buried in the village where they had lived rather than have to travel along the ‘coffin trail’ to the parish church in Alrewas. The then Earl of Lichfield is said to have contributed to the cost of the building. The church is home to 35 war graves, a number of which are the last restingplaces of Australian airmen, stationed at the nearby Fradley airfield (known at the time as RAF Lichfield), who lost their lives in the Second World War. There is a also a memorial site opposite the church in their honour. The war graves also include a Luftwaffe pilot who was shot down, and an infantryman from the First World War. The chimney which can be seen at the right of the building in this photograph has now been demolished due to the building of a small extension at that side of the church, which is used as a meeting room. The churchyard, originally quite small, was extended by some half an acre in 1956 – an increase in size considered at the time to be ‘sufficient ... to provide burials for the next 100 years or more’.
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