#365daysofbiking Chains changed:
November 16th – Heading back to Brownhills and home, I stopped to look at the view of Silver Street now the building works are finished here. Around 200 new, modern dwellings on what was 12 year dead wasteland and an abandoned marketplace. The change from desolation to signs of life and habitation is remarkable. Every time I see it, I struggle to take in the massive change here.
Change for the better.
About 6 years ago I speculated that this then desolate, windswept, empty place was haunted by the ghosts of civic failure. They have been exorcised, and gradually, almost imperceptibly, there are signs of life developing in my old town again. The people that live in these houses now will use the local takeaways, pop for a paper, a haircut and use the high street out of convenience. No, it’ll never boom like it did, but this trade fillip has to be welcome.
Finally, Brownhills is becoming unshackled from the system built housing misadventure of the sixties. All we need to do now is finally rid ourselves of the blight that is Ravens Court…
365daysofbiking Ever falls the twilight:
October 6th – I returned to Brownhills in the overcast weather hinterland between night and what passed for day. It was damned grey and inside, I felt that way too. The onset of winter has me by the neck this year and I’m alternately OK with it and then quite down. I somehow feel I let summer slip away – I didn’t, I rode lots and saw lots and it just ended early, but I feel bereft.
From the Silver Street pedestrian bridge, I surveyed one of my classic winter views: Autumn is settling well here now, and the new houses with the nice line along the canal made an interesting match to the colour of the trees before them. There is life here now, lights in the new dwellings, and no longer does it feel desolate to stand here and be confronted with the place I love.
This town is changing, like the season; slowly, imperceptibly if you’re not attuned to it, and I think for the better. Finally, the ghosts of the civic failure here are being exorcised, and there is evidence of a little hope, a little life, a little warmth.
Unlike the season, Brownhills is opening up. Perhaps this grey twilight is better than I thought.
March 24th – I had stuff to do at home, and didn’t get out until after dark, when I nipped down to Stonnall to call at a pal’s house.
Stonnall is an interesting village; it seems to be sprawling and dormitory now, and I caused a bit of a fuss a few years ago on this journal for likening it to Stepford; but the housing here from the postwar decades does seem to have enveloped what must have been quite a characterful place, and I find that the older buildings and their charm only become really evident now after dark.
It’s a nice enough place, for sure, but time hasn’t been kind to it.
February 10th – I’m liking the look of the houses going up on the old Brownhills market site right now. Hopefully, when complete they’ll bring lightness and a more populated feel to this once very open, wind-swept area of town, and hopefully also much needed footfall for the High Street.
Since the new houses became occupied on nearby recent developments, there has been a notable increase in people on the High Street, which can’t be a bad thing.
October 31st – Passing down the Darlaston Road to Wednesbury over Kings Hill, you realise that the area is changing. While it’s still very industrial, a couple of the old, large factories here have been replaced by new build housing.
The old Exidoor factory that made panic bolts was lost to apartments some years ago, and over the last couple of years, a pleasant enough, but unremarkable estate has grown on the site of the former Servis domestic appliance factory pretty much next door.
Servis was a household name, started by nearby power press manufacturer Wilkins and Mitchell who are also now gone; they made passable washing machines and the like which were functional, and often very innovative (The Servis Quartz was the first ever electronically controlled automatic washing machine) but suffered from poor quality and reliability.
Gradually outsold and outclassed by competitors due to the traditional British twin failures of lack of investment and corner cutting, Servis fell from UK ownership to various international owners before finally collapsing.
The works, which once even had it’s own brass band, fell silent, was demolished, the ground reclaimed, and now houses sprout from where the ground once shook under the blow of heavy presses.
Such is the story across modern Britain. We are in the middle of great change.