Burntwood Family History Group
   Home      Journal 2012 07-09 Volume 20 Number 3
Extracts from Burntwood Family History Group Journal
July - Sep 2012
Vol. 20. 3
Contents of this issue.
From the Chair...                                  1
News From the Secretary                       2
Life Before Computers                            4
Don’t Get the Breeze Up                         5
Chase Terrace Schooldays                      7
A Murderer in the Family                       10
Female Convicts in Australia                  11
Reviews of Guest Speakers’ Talks           12
Found and Rescued                              18
This Issue’s Cover Photograph                19
From the Chair...
Hi everybody. The year is rushing along as usual. Didn’t we have a nice couple of weeks early in March? Not sure what’s happened since...
It looks like there will be no Kew trip this year, as the one planned for May was cancelled. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get enough people to fill a coach. Disappointing for those who had shown an interest, but it would have been far too expensive to take less than a full cach. The Thursday evening ‘drop in’ sessions are still not very well attended and perhaps we should try them bi-monthly instead. I will be putting this to the Monday meetings to see what the response is.
Volunteers for the Surgeries at Lichfield Library are still required for the rota. The Surgeries take place on the last Wednesday in the month, with the exception of August and December, from 1.30 to 3.30.
Everyone has a story to tell and we would welcome more stories from members to include in the quarterly Journals. Also, if anyone has come across a particularly helpful website, please do share with us. Do you have any suggestions for how you would like to see the Group progress in the future? If so, please put this in writing and hand to any committee member.
In the meantime, may all your branches bear fruit and may all your brick walls fall down. Good hunting. Carole Jones

News  from the Secretary
Since the last issue of our Journal, the Group’s projects have continued to progress and the transcription of the parish registers of St. Mary’s, Lichfield are nearing completion and publication. The Memorials Project continues and many valuable contributions are being made, both by our team of workers and from people who have been contacted outside the Group, who have contributed many details which are not revealed by the information on the various memorials from which we obtain the basic information. If you know of someone whose name is on a local War Memorial and you can contribute additional personal information, please contact Pam Woodburn or me – our contact details can be found on the inside front cover of the Journal.
Find My Past. Earlier this year, we were again approached by the Federation regarding the inclusion of our Transcriptions in the website ‘Find My Past’. A Federation representative attended a committee meeting and answered many outstanding questions on how the scheme would work and what would be the implications for the Group. Most of our misgivings were covered in one way or another, and the Committee agreed (in principle) to go ahead. However, the formal agreement which would have to be signed on behalf of the Group, when studied in detail, was found to contain a ‘disclaimer’ clause which absolved the Federation from any claims arising from the issue of copyright or intellectual rights to the information contained in the transcriptions. While it would seem reasonable to assume that the format in which our transcriptions appear does not infringe those rights, if was felt that, as a Group which does not have a corporate identity upon which the onus of defending a claim would fall, the risk of a court case arising would be borne by the membership as a whole or possibly the person or persons who signed the agreement. It was decided that such a risk could not be taken and, therefore, the agreement could not be signed. Not further action will be taken at the present time and the Federation has been informed of our decision. There may be an opportunity to review the situation if there is a clear legal decision on the ownership of the data included in transcriptions in digital format at some later date.
Research on behalf of members. If you are a subscribed member of the Group and cannot attend Thursday meetings, you can contact the Honorary Secretary for help should you have an enquiry regarding research of your ancestors in the Burntwood and Lichfield Area. Providing the relevant parish records have been transcribed by the Group and you can provide the name and period of time (e.g. before 1900 or after 1750), it will be possible to give details of entries for that person which have been found and transcribed in any of the material covered by our project. A list of the Group’s publications will be found elsewhere in this Journal, and this will give you an idea of what this service will cover. It relies on an index of surnames which can only be accessed by selected officers of the Group and which is held by the Honorary Secretary. An email either to gassor33@talktalk.net or to the Group’s website at enquiries@bfhg.or.uk with the necessary details should bring a quick response. In the absence of specified surnames, or for general enquiries, it may be possible for your request to be passed on to other members of the Group who have provided their email addresses to us. This type of enquiry should only be sent to the webmaster as noted above.
Annual General Meeting. The AGM will be on Monday September 10th at 7.30 pm in the Community Room at the Old Mining College Centre, Chasetown. If you have any matters to raise at the meeting, please let the Chair have a note of them in advance. There will be an opportunity to nominate members to serve on the Committee and as officers of the Group. I have been your Honorary Secretary for some considerable time, and I advised the Committee two years ago that I wished to hand over the position to someone else during the coming year. It will therefore be necessary for someone else to take over before March 2013, and I shall be happy to work alongside the new Honorary Secretary during the six months between the AGM and then. There are some duties which I am prepared to continue with – mainly concerned with the publication of the Journal.
Membership renewal. This has been moved forward to 1st January, 2013 for all current members. This should make is easier for everyone to remember to renew their subscriptions from the 1st of January each year. You will receive a reminder in the next issue of the Journal in October. Geoff Sorrell
Life Before Computers
Computers may be a useful tool nowadays for researching the past, but back in your ancestors’ day things were simpler. Even words had different meanings – meanings which have nothing to do with computers. So let’s raise a glass to those simpler times, when:
memory was something you lost with age
an application was for employment
a program was a TV show
a cursor was someone who swore a lot
a keyboard was on a piano
a monitor was the kid who fetched your class’s free milk
the Web was a spider’s home
a PC was someone who pounded the beat
a Mac kept you dry in the rain
a mobile phone was one with a very long lead
a virus was what gave you the ’flu
a Trojan was somebody who worked very hard
a CD was a bank account
RAM was a word for a male sheep
a hard drive was a long trip on the road
a mouse pad was where a small rodent lived
a Gameboy was probably looking for a game girl
a Wii was something you did in the loo
a Blackberry was something you picked in summer
a Kindle went on the fire
and if you had a 3½ inch floppy ...
... you just hoped nobody found out!
Don't get the Breeze Up by Brian Asbury
(largely based on material culled from West Ham United’s website)
The popular Cockney song ‘Knees Up, Mother Brown’ has always puzzled me. In fact, I’ve always considered its lyrics completely bizarre:
‘Knees up Mother Brown!
Knees up Mother Brown!
Under the table you must go
If I catch you bending,
I'll saw your legs right off,
Knees up! Knees Up! Don't get the breeze up, Knees up Mother Brown!’
OK, notwithstanding the fact that the singer seems have been taught spelling by the same person who taught Old MacDonald (can ‘farm’ really be spelt ‘ee-i-ee-i-oh’?), he (I presume it’s a ‘he’) is also apparently threatening Mother Brown (whoever she is) with torture or even murder. I’m not at all sure this song would get past the political-correctness police these days. Nevertheless, despite its implied horror, the song has always been popular, especially dahn sarf (where they’re obviously easily pleased). But where and how did it originate? As one pundit on West Ham’s website said: ‘Being anonymously written makes it a complete unknown quantity, but it is certainly Pre-Edwardian and very probably Pre-Victorian, if some of the contemporary songs are anything to go by.’ It may well date back much further than that, from traditional folk dancing. Once upon at time, the common people of every region had their own varieties of long-practised dances and, in fact, each walk of life did (you’d get a farmers’ dance, a peasants’ dance, milkmaids’ dance, etc.). The most common and famous of these still exist to some extent, such as Morris dancing, maypole dancing, ‘Court’ dancing (i.e. the stuff you see in period films), and local traditions such as Abbots Bromley’s famous Horn Dance, which combines different styles. However, because only the rich could read and write, nobody ever actually wrote down how to do these things – nor any lyrics that they were danced to. So they were hand-me-down tunes and tales that changed through the ages. What has this got to do with ‘Knees up Mother Brown’ (let’s call it ‘KUMB’ for short), which is basically a song? Well, drinking basically. It’s a thirsty song –
the idea being to jig, jump around and generally make a lot of noise, singing the lyrics faster and faster until everybody collapses out of breath and needs a good lager to recover. The actual meaning isn’t important as such, but humorous lyrics help, of course. Threatening to kneecap some poor old granny if she doesn’t keep up is probably hilarious if you’re drunk enough. During the Victorian period, the songs began to go ‘underground’ and were only performed in pubs, bars and inns amongst the poor and the alcohol dependent. The rich, meanwhile, turned away from their court dancing towards ballroom affairs (waltzes, etc). Only the rabble would sing anything so risqué as KUMB.  It may eventually have become a Victorian show tune, but it’s difficult to find any record of it anywhere in anything ‘official’ from the time. The audiences for Victorian penny shows were there for a good sing-song and ‘knees up’, though, and KUMB would have been perfect for that. This brings us to ‘Mother Brown’ herself. If there are any famous Mrs. Browns from the Victorian period, they’re pretty hard to find – but we mustn’t forget dear old Queen Victoria herself. Rumours abound that she had an affair with her ghillie John Brown (memorably played by Billy Connolly in the film Mrs. Brown). Vicky was well known as the ‘Mother’ of the British Empire, but after the death of Prince Albert she was a virtual recluse for some 20+ years, which did little to endear her to her subjects. So, what would have seemed more funny than to sing a song telling her to ‘cheer up’ and have a ‘Knees Up’ or else we’ll hack your legs off at the knees? (Odd sense of humour, the Victorians...) After 1900, the song got around more and more. There are references to it in 1918 and apparently to some Yanks singing it as they were packed off home from Portsmouth – not that it wasn’t already over there, with plenty of Irish, Scots, Welsh and English people having emigrated to America, land of opportunity. It also could be found in India, thanks to British servicemen in the days of the Raj, and references to it crop up throughout most of the old Empire, from Canada and Australasia to Malta and South Africa. The song underwent something of a slump in popularity between the end of the 14–18 War to the early 1930s, but it made a comeback from 1933 onwards, reaching a peak in 1938, after which it became a wartime favourite for keeping spirits up as well as knees. After World War II, however, it fell into a sharp decline, although West Ham United picked it up as a sort of club anthem. Just why this was isn’t certain, but it has become associated irrevocably with other East End traditions such as Pearly Kings and Queens. Whatever its real story, though, KUMB has part of our British heritage and is a song that foreigners will forever associate with us – even if they haven’t a clue what it’s about (any more than we have!).

Chase Terrace Schooldays by Eric Evans
The school on Rugeley Road, Chase Terrace, was where my grandmother had taught until about 1922. It was a Victorian building, with high ceilings and dark brown glazed tiles half way up the walls. The windows were high, and all you could see through them was the sky, with clouds going past. For a five-year-old who had been free to play all day in the garden until that time, it was all a bit of a shock at first, but like the other new starters I soon settled down. I don’t really remember much about these first years at school, but I do remember marching to the sports ground at Chasetown to celebrate the King’s Silver Jubilee and winning a Jubilee pencil in a race. I also remember one time, while I was still in the Infants’ school, being taken outside to watch an aeroplane fly over. This was a very unusual sight in those days. I can also remember, just a few years later in the 1940s, watching continual flights of aircraft going over in the early evenings, on their way to bomb the enemy during the War. How things had changed in those few years. I went up to the Junior half of the school when I was eight, and life was a lot more interesting by then. I learnt to ride my first two-wheeled bike at around that time, and this opened up a whole new world to me, as I could travel on my own much further than I had been able to do before. Another memorable occasion was during my last year at Junior school, when I was allowed to join the library. The adult section of the library was open at the school every Thursday evening for about two hours. The teachers from school looked after it, and it was very popular amongst the adults in the village, but now a children’s section was to open .This was my first introduction to some of the classics, and I began to enjoy reading for the first time. On my tenth birthday, I was given a puppy as a present, and I remember going with my dad to choose him. There were two left out of the litter and I chose the brown and white one. I loved him from the time that I first saw him, and I named him ‘Rover’. I carried him home tucked inside my jacket, a little warm bundle. He eventually grew into quite a large dog, both friendly and full of character, and we became inseparable. We shared many adventures over the years, and he was my constant companion throughout the rest of my schooldays. Many of the things which boys used to do when I was at school would not be considered safe these days. During the long school summer holidays we would set off on expeditions to explore the countryside, sometimes walking all day with just a bottle of water and a jam sandwich in our pockets. These expeditions were always carefully planned, but we often got distracted and ended up somewhere quite different from where we had set off, usually walking a lot further than we had originally intended.
The places that we liked best were quite often places where we were not supposed to go, like Norton Pool or the canal at Chasetown. These were definite no-go areas as far as our parents were concerned, as almost every year someone got drowned there. I remember one time falling into the canal and having to run up and down naked while my clothes dried hanging over some bushes. The canal was a great place for bathing, even though not many people were able to swim very well in those days – unlike today, when most children are taught to swim while still at school. The nearest swimming baths to Chase Terrace were at Lichfield, but it cost money to go in and there wasn’t a lot of that to spare in the 1930s. As the canal and Norton Pool were free, that’s where we went. Often we would walk up to Castle Ring, an ancient hill fort over 600 ft above sea level, where we could play in the dried-up moat or on the foundations of the old walls. There we could look out across Beaudesert Park, which was all private land in those days. In the distance were two hills on the horizon at the other side of the park. These, we were told, were called Stile Cop, and we decided it would be a great place to explore. The next time that we went up to Castle Ring, we had already agreed that we should have a look at what lay on the other side of the park, so we set off through the trees and crept on down the hill. After crossing several streams and climbing up the steep banks, it was with very wet feet that we finally crawled out through the fence on the other side. Now which way? It all looked different when it was close up. The hills that we were looking for were just a few hundred yards up the road, and we were soon climbing through the bracken to the top, where the views were even better than from Castle Ring. It was well worth the effort. There were large splits in the sandstone, forming shallow caves for us to explore. All this was very exciting, but we still had to make our way home. It was decided that we would walk back through Hazel Slade and Rawnsley, rather than risk meeting one of the estate’s gamekeepers on the way back across the park. It was a very tired and hungry party of explorers that returned home that night. That was the first time we went to Stile Cop, but it wasn’t the last. We made many trips after that and we never once saw a gamekeeper. I don’t really think that there ever was one, but at the time the anxiety all added excitement to the day out. Living in Chase Terrace in the 1930s was, I suppose, a mixture of old and new. Although there were some cars and lorries about, most local transport was still horse-drawn. I can remember, somewhere around 1935, the Marquis of Anglesey was having the old Beaudesert Hall demolished. It was something to do with death duties, or so it was said at the time, and most of the trees on the estate were also being cut down. Wootton’s timber yard was contracted to take down the trees and transport them to their yard at Cannock, to be sawn up.
As many of the trees were hundreds of years old, this proved to be a colossal job, not helped by their location, as many of them were growing high on the hills around Castle Ring. The whole operation must have been a nightmare to plan and carry out, using horses to haul the massive tree trunks to the roads and then negotiating the many bends and hills along the way. Much of the timber came past where I lived, on the Rugeley Road at Chase Terrace. One good thing which came out of the changes that were made to the estate was that the Marquis gave a large piece of land over to the Scout and Guide movement for a permanent camp ground and recreational area. It was officially opened by the Princess Royal at a World Jamboree in 1937, when Scouts and Guides from all over the world came to visit and take part. It has now been used by the Scout and Guide movement for 68 years. The senior school on the Bridgecross Road was where I spent my final three years in education. The school was quite new then, only having been built about five years before, and the whole of the layout was different from anything I had experienced before. The boys were divided into separate houses, each with a different colour. My colour was red, and we were ‘Rudyard Kipling House’. There were classrooms for different subjects and workshops where we were taught woodwork and metalwork. There was a science laboratory and a large area at the back where we were taught all about gardening. The school also had a large assembly hall which was used as a gym, a music room and also for amateur dramatics. The school stood along the road between Chase Terrace and Burntwood, and although there were shrubs and gardens at the front, the windows were low enough to see outside and watch the traffic passing by on the road. It was an all-boys school, but the senior girls’ school was next door and was built to the same design. They didn’t share the same entrances as the boys, and inside the school itself the boys had no contact with the girls at any time. I left Chase Terrace in 1957, to move closer to my place of work. Since then, the mining villages I knew have grown in size, with new roads, business parks and acres of new housing. However, they are still there, and some still retain a little of their original character.
A Murderer in the Family by Carole Jones (Part 1)
When I was a child, my grandmother used to tell my cousin and me that there was a murderer in the family. She knew no names and no dates and we didn’t know whether to believe her or not – but then, as she had no information, we guessed it would never be proven. Then, a couple of years ago, I received my usual copy of the Gloucester Family History Journal, and in it was an little snippet to say that a Patsy McMillan from New Zealand had transcribed all the Gloucester inquests from 1722 to 1838. I immediately keyed in all the family names, but got a disappointing nothing; so I keyed in ‘Forest of Dean’, thinking that I at least might find some miscreant neighbours (I still have lots of family there), and the name ‘Sarah Sully’ popped up. I had already found her death, aged about 40, in 1829, but no further sight of her husband marrying again. I visited Patsy’s website and found the following from 1829 Gloucester inquests: ‘May 30. MURDER OF A WIFE BY HER HUSBAND
On Tuesday last an inquest was taken before John Cooke, Esq. Coroner, at St Briavell’s, in the Forest of Dean, on the body of SARAH SULLY, a poor woman about forty years of age, who, according to the evidence adduced, met with her death under the following circumstances:
The deceased, together with her husband WM. SULLY, resided about two months in a wretched cabin, at Ruspedge, where the husband obtained occasional employment as a labourer. Yesterday fortnight, a neighbour heard them quarrelling, and soon afterwards saw Sully beating the deceased! And on Saturday night last an alarm was given by a girl that a man was murdering his wife by the railroad, upon which a person named LLEWLLYN REECE went to see what was going on, and as he approached the spot heard the sound of heavy blows, and a female voice crying out murder! On coming up, he saw the deceased on the ground and her husband beating her violently with his fist. Reece dragged him from the deceased, who with much difficulty got up and walked home. On Sunday the deceased sent for two female neighbours, who found her lying upon a bed of straw, in a terribly bruised state, which she said was occasioned by the ill treatment of her husband. They gave her some tea, but were afraid to go to see her again in consequence of the violent threats of Sully. About nine o’clock, on Monday morning, the poor woman died. The body was examined by two very respectable surgeons, who found several extensive bruises on different parts, the lungs loaded with blood, and one of the ribs fractured, and who coincided in attributing her death to the injuries she had received.
Under the circumstances the jury without hesitation returned a verdict of Wilful Murder against WM. SULLY alias SALEWELL, who was forthwith committed to our County Gaol, under the Coroner’s Warrant, for trial at the next Assizes. COMMITMENTS: WM. SULLY @ SALEWELL for the murder of his wife.’ Since that time, I have found witness statements, a report of the trial and the hanging!
To be continued...
Female Convicts in Australia
The Group has received an email from an organisation in Australia which is working on the ancestry and descendants of female convicts who were transported to Van Dieman’s Land. They are looking for volunteers in the UK who are interested in researching the lives of ancestors who were transported to Australia. They have a website (www.femaleconvicts.org.au), which you can join and have free access to their database. All work is done by volunteers, and anyone interested they can request a list of women in their county along with trial dates and other details by contacting Colette McAlpine, Female Convict Research Centre, C/-2, Heathcombe Crescent, Sandy Bay 2005, Tasmania, Australia. E-mail: database@femaleconvicts.org.au
Reviews of Guest Speakers' Talks Reviewer: Sheila Clarke
February 2012: Ned Williams on ‘Looking at Shops’
Ned Williams has been trying to record in photographic form how shops have evolved over the years. Using slides, he showed how High Streets have changed along with shopping habits. As late as the 1980s, it was still possible to find shops in the Black Country which had changed little since the 19th century. For example, there was a chemist in Blackheath which had been in the same family since 1850. They had started as herbalists, and in two generations became pharmacists, who then took over the adjoining premises, where they branched into photography. After another two generations, they had added an optician’s to their portfolio. The history of the changes could be read in the signs painted over the years into the brickwork over the shop. Today this shop has gone. The regeneration of towns after World War II and the rise of out-of-town shopping centres saw the demise of many independent shops. However, even the big malls seem to be on the wane today, as many of us shop on the Internet. We were shown a photo of a Somerfield delivery truck which bore the slogan, ‘Shopping in the real world’. Perhaps we will be the last generation to do this. The 1960s saw the rise of the shopping precinct, to separate shoppers and cars. However, most were open to the elements – a big mistake in our climate! Today many stand empty. A precinct in Wolverhampton St. Dudley was opened with great pomp and ceremony by the Mayor in 1969, but by the 1980s it had been ‘superseded’ by Merry Hill and is a sorry sight today. Ned showed a photograph of the town centre of Dudley in 1890, obviously bustling, with an electric light suspended over the road – the first electric light in Dudley, provided for the benefit of shoppers by the local butcher. At the other end of the scale, we were shown a photograph of a small shop in Donkey Road, Essington. This had been converted from the front room of a dwelling house by the wife of an injured miner. Many who fell on hard times saw this type of conversion as a means of making some sort of living. It seemed to matter little if there were other such stores within 50 yards – people liked shopping locally. A small ‘front room’ shop in Holland Street, Wolverhampton, begun in the 1920s by an out of work family, had been taken over by an Asian family by the 1980s and is still being run by them today. We were shown historic shop fronts. Those stemming from Georgian times were symmetrical, with the vertical exceeding the horizontal, the door in the centre. Existing buildings were converted into shops, with bow windows being added either side of the door. Purpose-built shops evolved in Victorian times.
Window displays became larger and more and more important and elaborate. In the Edwardian era, shop facades and interiors became even more decorative. 1900 saw the arrival of ‘multiples’ such as Home and Colonial and Lipton’s. George Mason expanded his business quickly by taking over existing premises, then ensuring that they all had the same style of lettering above and below the window, double doors and distinctive green livery – a corporate image. Nowhere was that better seen than in Woolworth’s, with their use of red and the design of their stores. There were particular regional styles. In Witney, an agricultural foundry produced, as a sideline, a range of ornate columns which were used on local shop fronts. One we were shown was originally an ironmonger, with a solicitor’s office above. Today it is a Balti restaurant, but the fine ironwork survives. A gold and silversmith shop in Dudley had a sumptuous display with a beautiful sign above in black and gold. Fortunately, the shop has been preserved because it is in a conservation area, but sadly the sign is much more subdued. Cast iron frontages became popular between 1910–1914,  especially in furniture stores, because they allowed larger windows to be installed. Unfortunately, fluctuations in temperature meant that glass cracked in the winter. One we were shown is still a furniture store today. Advertising stickers for windows and enamel signs developed during Edwardian times. A 1910 photograph of a Wolverhampton shop called Billingham’s Tyres showed the shop front covered in hundreds of bicycle tyres and the owner standing proudly by. Butchers, more than many shop owners, seem to have a strong sense of tradition and identity. In the days before refrigeration, handsome displays of meat and poultry inside and fronting their premises were used as an advertisement. The skills of butchery were passed down through generations of a family. Cattle arrived on the hoof to be slaughtered on the premises. Butchers often had beautiful tiling and marble. Fresh sawdust was strewn on the floor daily. Bakers had their bakeries behind their shops. Although artisan bakers are making a comeback to some extent, baking on the premises largely died out with the coming of the sliced loaf and the supermarket. One name that is still going strong and began in the Black Country is Firkin of West Bromwich. Ned believes that at heart greengrocers are market traders in the way they like to spread their displays of fruit and vegetables across the pavement. One trader he mentioned not only used the pavement, but tried to make more permanent fixtures outside by building side walls and a low front wall on which to place his displays, perhaps with the intent to incorporate the extra space into his shop. Unfortunately for him, the Council had other ideas!
After World War II, when money was tight, shop fronts were ‘tarted up’ with catalogue-bought plastic letters, instead of using a sign writer. These frontages became shabby very quickly. The 1960s saw the arrival of boutiques, with cave-like entrances and dark interiors. It is very difficult to find one of these now. Towards the end of the 20th century, there was a return to the use of quality materials in the construction of both the inside and outside of stores. Hardware stores often had interesting window displays. We were shown a picture of Donsons of Wolverhampton, taken in 1980, where rows of hammers, chisels saws and boxes of nails were displayed. The advent of DIY superstores caused the demise of such shops. Nowadays the store is an ‘adult’ book shop. Specialist shops come and go. There is a shop in Netherton selling articles connected to cowboys and the Wild West; another store in the Black Country sells surfboards and windsurfing equipment, almost as far from the sea as it is possible to get in England. Such shops may now do much better with the greater use of the Internet. Shops making and selling regional specialities such as local pies and pasties have a greater chance of surviving, particularly in tourist areas. Many beautiful exterior and interior features, however, have been lost forever. When WT Snape, the high class tea and coffee dealer, closed, it was hoped to preserve the superb interior with its specialised fixtures and fittings. Unfortunately, it did not happen and, apart from a photograph, this piece of history is lost forever. Many of us can remember the old wooden cash kiosks in shops such as the Co-op, where overhead wires carried the cylinders containing cash from assistant and customer to the cashier, with change returning the same way. The last such contraption was in use in a gentlemen’s outfitters in Willenhall until 1987, and is now in a museum. Ned also touched on the art of window displays, painted adverts on walls, and changes in packaging over the years. He is also interested in making models of shops. One day he saw workmen taking down a gold and black lettered sign from a Maypole store which was closing. When he expressed interest, he was offered the 18ft long sign and, because of its length, they even delivered it to his house, where it now has pride of place on his landing. Together with what Ned Williams calls his obsession with the shops of the Black Country, he has written a book about Black Country cinemas and another on Black Country theatres. It seems that we are on the cusp of radical changes in our shopping habits, so it is timely that he is recording these changes.
March 2012: Steven Booth on ‘Mid-Staffordshire and the Coming of the Tudors: the Events of 1485’
Steven Booth has been interested in the beginning of the Tudor period of history for two main reasons. First, he has for many years been teaching sixth formers about the Wars of the Roses, and secondly he lives about 100 metres from an event which took place at Stone days before the Battle of Bosworth. He reminded us of the protagonists, the Lancastrians with their red rose emblem and the Yorkists with their white rose. This civil war, which lasted on and off for 30 years, was not actually called ‘the Wars of the Roses’ until the Abbot of Crowland coined the phrase in 1486. Edward IV, who had managed to stabilise the country after the Wars of the Roses, died suddenly in 1483. His children included an elder daughter Elizabeth and two sons, Edward V aged 12 and Richard aged 9. The accession of the young king provoked clandestine manoeuvres for control of the government between his mother Elizabeth Woodville, with her powerful relatives, and Edward’s younger brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester. Richard had been named in the late king’s will as protector of the children during their minority. He had been a staunch supporter of Edward IV and a brave soldier who had distinguished himself at the battle of Tewkesbury aged only 18. Shakespeare’s vilification of him in Richard III, depicting him as a crippled hunchback, is far from the truth. A contemporary portrait of Richard had a hump added at a later date. Though not tall, Richard was in fact athletic and enjoyed wrestling. Did Richard have concerns that the Woodville family would wield too much power at the court of a 12-year-old monarch? On 23rd April 1483, the Queen Mother’s brother Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, was arrested and executed in London. Edward V was taken to the tower of London by Richard of Gloucester ‘for protection’. On 22nd June, Robert Stillington, Bishop of Bath and Wells, went before Parliament and swore that the children of Edward IV and Elizabeth were illegitimate because he had been a witness to a prenuptial contract between Edward and Eleanor Butler, daughter of the Earl of Shrewsbury, after the Battle of Blore Heath, near Market Drayton. Eleanor’s previous husband had died in the battle and Eleanor had sought Henry’s assistance in recognising her right to her property. The prenuptial contract was deemed binding by Parliament, so the boys were declared illegitimate and Richard was proclaimed king. However, rumours began to circulate that the two princes were dead, and that they may have been murdered at Richard III’s behest. There was little real evidence to support this, but rumours and repressive actions by Richard undermined his popularity.
By 1483, there were no legitimate Lancastrian claimants to the throne left. At this time, Henry Tudor was a penniless refugee in Brittany, where he had fled with his uncle Jasper after Edward IV had regained the throne in 1471. Brittany did not become part of France until later. The Duke of Brittany agreed to protect Henry, who had a very slim claim to the English throne, stemming from his mother, Margaret Beaufort, who was the great-granddaughter of John of Gaunt, one of the sons of Edward III. Henry made plans to land in England, but the conspiracy was discovered. At Christmas, 1484, Henry delivered a bold claim. He declared that if he became King of England, he would marry Elizabeth Woodville, the elder sister of the missing princes, so uniting the houses of Lancaster and York. In fact, she had a greater claim to the throne than he did. The king of France agreed to aid him and, in 1485, Henry landed at Milford Haven with seven ships and 2,000 very good soldiers, amongst whom only a few were English; 1,700 were Scottish mercenaries. The soldiers did not expect to defeat Richard, but they did expect to acquire booty from the endeavour. To avoid any opposition, Henry marched his troops north along the coast of Wales before cutting across country to Shrewsbury and the Midlands. He was hopeful that William Stanley would support him. Stanley had been a Yorkist but thought that Richard had behaved unjustly in declaring the two princes illegitimate. His brother, Lord Thomas Stanley, was married to Henry’s mother Margaret Beaufort (his second wife), so Henry hoped that Thomas, as his step-father, would also give his support. By the time Henry’s army had reached Shrewsbury, it had swelled to 5,000 men. There was just one bridge over the Severn and, at first, the Sherriff of Shropshire refused Henry admittance to the town to obtain provisions. After changing his mind, he lay down on the bridge as a symbolic gesture. At Newport, Gilbert Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, added 500 men to Henry’s army. On they marched to Stafford, where they waited. Thomas Stanley had, in 1483 asked Richard if he could return to his lands in Lancashire. This Richard agreed to, provided he left his eldest son, George Strange, behind at court. On August 15th, 1485, Thomas heard that Henry had reached Shrewsbury so he, along with an army of 5,000, came south through Manchester, travelling through Eccleshall a day before Henry and his troops. At this time, Richard still believed that Thomas’s army would fight on his side, especially as he held Thomas’s son hostage. Thomas’s army moved ahead of Henry Tudor’s, adding to the illusion that he was protecting the king by placing himself and his army between Richard and Henry. It was probable that Thomas Stanley was hedging his bets and had not yet decided which side to join.
His younger brother, William, had left north Wales with his army. They travelled via Nantwich, along what is now the A51, and reached Stone, camping by the river Trent on land now known as Crown Meadow. On August 17th, William went to Stafford to meet Henry and then returned to Stone. Henry then marched south to Lichfield. It was there that the troops fraternised. On August 18th, the three armies met very briefly at Atherstone. Thomas left four knights with Henry to advise him, including Sir John Savage, one of his best soldiers. On 22nd August, Richard was ten miles away at Ambien Hill, near Market Bosworth, where he set up his standard with the boar emblem. Henry took up a position to the southwest. William Stanley and his men were a little further south and taking no part. Thomas Stanley and his army were further away still, to the southeast and behind marshy ground. If he were called upon to join the fray, he would have the excuse that his men could not cross the marsh. Richard thought he would win; he held the best position, on paper had twice as many men, and he thought the Stanley brothers were on his side. One hour into the battle, Richard saw Henry Tudor leave the main detachment with a small band of men and approach Sir William Stanley. Richard left his vantage point and impetuously led a charge of knights down the hill to attack Henry Tudor. Henry’s flagbearer was killed, but the rest of his men gathered round him. It was then that William Stanley and his men joined the battle on Henry’s side, outflanking the King’s forces, and Richard was slain. At that instant, most of Richard’s soldiers stopped fighting. It is believed that Richard’s helmet crown was found on the battlefield and was placed on Henry’s head by Lord Stanley. True to his word, Henry married Elizabeth of York and the Tudor Rose was born, combining the red and white roses. Both William and Thomas Stanley were richly rewarded, Thomas becoming Constable of England and William High Sheriff. In 1495, William Stanley was executed for giving support to Perkin Warbeck’s claim to be Richard of York, the younger of the princes in the Tower. There is still speculation as to why William would jeopardise his privileged position unless he really believed that Warbeck was genuine. Many intrigues took place during this period by all the protagonists and they are difficult to unravel. Steven Booth concluded his talk by leaving us with these intriguing thoughts. In 1674, repairs to a staircase in the Tower unearthed two skeletons. At that time, it was not possible to identify the age or sex of the remains. It was assumed that they were the skeletons of Edward IV’s two sons and they were interred in Westminster Abbey as such. In more recent times, the tomb of Mary I, granddaughter of Elizabeth of York, was opened, and a lock of hair was used to map her DNA sequence. Perhaps one day it will be possible to see if the skeletons found in the Tower are those of the princes by seeing if their DNA profile points to being part of the same family as Mary. And if they are not…?
Found and Rescued by Pam Turner
During the summer of 2007, my cousin passed on to me some family items that he had found while sorting out his late parents’ house prior to its sale. The items included a family Bible, once the possession of our great grandparents Charles and Louisa Hulse, and various certificates belonging to two of their children, Gladys and Leonard. My cousin had found the items stored in the far corner of the attic; they were well wrapped in protective paper but he had no idea why or how they had got there. Initially he was going to take them to the tip along with other items he didn’t want, but fortunately for me he decided to ask if I was interested in having them. Of course I was thrilled to be offered them and I was extremely grateful that my cousin had seen the ancestral value of what he had found. The Bible, which dates back to 1890, is a wonderful item that can only be described as something akin to the sort you would find on Church lecterns. The book is approx 12” long by 10” wide and is extremely heavy. It has numerous illustrated pages inside, both colour and monochrome, all of which are in excellent condition. The front cover, sadly, has come away from the binding, and one of the brass clasps is missing; however, the rest of the book has survived extremely well throughout the years. Charles Henry Hulse was born in Walsall in 1866 and Louisa (nee Cartwright) was a farmer’s daughter, born in Wolverhampton in 1868 and later moving at the age of 12, to live in Walsall where her father owned two farms and also ran the Birmingham House Inn in Ablewell Street. Charles and Louisa married in 1889 at St Matthew’s Church, Walsall, and initially made their home in William Street. It is my belief that the Bible was purchased by my great grandparents or maybe given them as a present around the birth of their first child, Henry, in 1890. The family records page in the book has been partially filled in by Louisa, although I already knew most of the information that was recorded.
The other documents that my cousin gave me date back to the period between 1905 and 1925 and consist of numerous certificates for school, church and wartime events which had been presented to my great aunt Gladys and her brother Leonard. Altogether there were 14 certificates, six in Leonard’s name and eight for Gladys, many of which are highly decorated and very colourful and all are in very good condition. Leonard’s include three school certificates from 1905 for good attendance at St George’s School, Walsall, a Sunday school membership card for 1911 and a Sunday school confirmation certificate from 1912 from St Luke’s Church, Walsall. These were all gained while he was a schoolboy. Later in life, when he was aged 28 in 1925, he received a St John’s Ambulance examination certificate for giving first aid. Sadly, I never knew great uncle Leonard; he died when I was only three. Great aunt Gladys’s documents consist of four Sunday School certificates dating from 1912 to 1914 from St Luke’s Church, Walsall a Card of Honour from Blue Coat Girls’ School, dated 7/7/1916, with distinctions in RK, attendance and good conduct, two Overseas Club certificates for Empire Day and Christmas Day 1915, awarded for sending comfort to the forces in WWI, and finally a certificate dated 1916 from Walsall Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, commending Gladys for her essay in a competition. Also with these certificates were three commemorative pictures from a magazine called School Girls Own, from consecutive issues dated February 5th, 12th and 19th, 1921, and are of HRH Princess Mary, (later Countess Harewood) HRH the Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII) and Nurse Edith Cavell. All of the certificates belonging to my great aunt Gladys give the impression that she was quite a religious, caring and compassionate young girl. Unfortunately, this image did not fit her personality in later life. I knew my great aunt quite well – she lived until 1987 – but the qualities she had as a schoolgirl must have somehow disappeared by the time she reached her advanced years. However, irrespective of this, I am extremely pleased to have her certificates along with her brothers and their parent’s Bible. They are a wonderful addition to the family tree and all totally irreplaceable. Thank goodness my cousin didn’t make that trip to the local tip!
This Issue’s Cover Photograph
Roman site (Letocetum), Wall, Staffs. Photo by Alan Betts
The village of Wall, near Lichfield, sits alongside the A5 (Watling Street) and its history dates back to Roman times, when the Roman army set up a staging post. Later, a more significant community developed in the area, and remains of this Roman town, called Letocetum, are still present to this day. A small museum, dedicated to the village’s Roman period, is situated nearby, and many of the finds excavated from the site are displayed there.