BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

On a bike, riding somewhere. Every day, rain or shine.

Posts tagged ‘history’

December 20th – Returning through Shenstone, I popped into the village to the shop on an errand. Coming back down the village, I was reminded what a handsome pub The Railway is.

The extension in the foreground was once a chapel, then a butcher’s shop, but is now part of the stone-flagged lounge and has a large window it’s great to sit by and watch the world go by.

A lovely pub I’d almost forgotten about.

October 30th – Not a bad day for a Monday. I had to nip to a hospital appointment at lunchtime, so left work and cycled along a sun-dappled, peaceful canal to the centre of Walsall. Turning to leave the canal and ride on to Bridgman Street, I looked at the Town Arm Junction.

This place has changed beyond recognition in my lifetime. When I was a nipper it was grimy, surrounded by blackened, semi derelict factories; there was little wildlife and the waters were nothing more than a polluted stew.

Not all change is for the worse.

September 24th – Nice to see the refurbished Fullelove Memorial Shelter back in public use at the Parade in Brownhills. Often mistaken for a bus stop, the shelter was erected by Brownhills Urban District Council for the old folks in memory of George Fullelove, the great chorister and choirmaster of Brownhills.

This hexagonal, elegant brick structure has provided a place to shoot the breeze, hide from the rain, or enjoy an illicit fag for generations, yet I bet few know why it’s actually there.

A lovely thing, well restored and congratulations to the Brownhills Local Committee and the Friends of Brownhills Common who achieved it.

August 25th – Travellers of a different kind in central Walsall. Still feeling grim even for the sun and fresh air, my burning of the candle at both ends was finally catching up with me, so a breather and a brew watching this narrowboat negotiate the locks at near Smiths Flour Mill in Walsall was in order.

I love to see the narrowboats – and this was a good one, in a scene hugely transformed in the last few decades. Once, the boat would have been grubby, in even blacker, heavily polluted surroundings, perhaps carrying coal to the power station, but now we’re surrounded by green and modern urbanity, and the cargo is not coal, but travellers, holidaymakers or boat enthusiasts passing another once industrial town.

How times change.

August 6th – A better day spent mainly at home getting domestic things done, and resting, which is what I needed more than anything. I left for a ride late on a freshly tuned, clean, unladen bike and had forgotten just how lively and fun my bike is to throw around in such a state. I rocketed around the common and Chasewater and felt better, and liberated. I only had to go a few weeks. And I could get more stuff done. This isn’t all bad.

Talking of getting stuff done, I noted that the Fullelove Memorial Shelter at the bottom of The Parade is being well renovated. Built in memoriam to the great Brownhillian choral singer George Fullelove, I believe the shelter was built after his passing for the elderly to sit and watch the world go by. Over the years I’ve seen much time there, like many a Brownhills lad: sheltering, dossing, socialising or having an illicit fag. 

Like most people, until I was older I had no idea of the purpose of this hexagonal, elegant structure as no plaque records it’s purpose, but it is a fitting tribute, and also to Brownhills Local Committee and Doug Birch who have pushed for the renovation.

Thanks. This is a real piece of Brownhills history, your efforts are appreciated.

February 19th – I had to be in work on a Sunday, unusually, early in the morning. After spending a few hours there, I decided to make the best of the day and head on to the canals of the Black Country. I shot over to Tipton, then through the Netherton Tunnel, wound around Brierley Hill to Stourbridge, out to Stourton and then all the way up to Wolverhampton on the Staffs and Worcester, heading back home on the good old Curley Wyrley to Bloxwich.

I love riding the Netherton Tunnel – at 3036 yards it’s a long one, and the effects of water seepage and time make it an interesting and dramatic journey. 

Those air vents still remind me of something out of Doom or Quake.

Didn’t see another soul down there, either, which was odd. Bumble Hole at the far end was busy, though.

December 1st – The long-closed Shire Oak Pub at the crossroads atop Shire Oak hill reopened only a few days ago, and it’s so nice to see the building lit up again at night. The pub deserves a good future as it’s a historic and well loved inn that’s survived many years. 

As I winched myself up the hill from an errand in Stonnall I appreciated the warm, welcoming lights and hoped the new team running it have every success.

October 17th – I’ve passed through Ocker Hill and Toll End a fair bit lately, and I’ve noticed this house at the top of Toll End Road near the island.

It’s old. I think it’s older than anything in the immediate vicinity, and of what looks like a very un-black country design; the only thing I can liken it to around these parts is the old White Lion in Caldmore Green, Walsall.

Does anyone know the history of this curious house please?

October 13th – On the canal bank just above the new pond in Clayhanger, two large, flat stone blocks lay in the grass, as if they’ve just landed randomly. I bet few folk ever notice these, or wonder what they are, but they are the last physical evidence of the industrial past of this peaceful place.

The path that runs from here to the west of Clayhanger follows the line of an old mineral railway, serving Walsall Wood Colliery which used to be just the other side of the canal. The line crossed the cut here via an over bridge, all trace of which has gone.

Except for these capstones, which stood at either end of the bridge parapets. 

A third is in the new pond, placed there as a stepping stone when the pool was created following the removal of the spoil heap that stood here for a few decades after the colliery closed. Like some post-industrial Brigaddon, it emerges in dry summers. 

I’ve never found the missing fourth one, but I bet it’s around, somewhere.

They are all that remains, and how many ever realise the history they belie?

July 11th – Today I noticed an odd little curiosity I’d not spotted before. On the canal at Clayhanger Bridge, the rope guards that were installed on the original bridge were transferred to it’s replacement in 1994.

These rusting metal posts were originally at the vertices of the brickwork on the towpath side of the underbridge. Back when narrowboats were horse drawn, the guards were fitted so that the horse towropes would not groove the brickwork, but the metal instead. The years of boats passing wore deep grooves in the metal, which are a sort of historical witness to the traffic that once passed under here. 

There are very few horse-drawn boats now, and the posts are merely there as an artefact. I note they were fitted slightly incorrectly in that they no longer protect the corners, and their positions have been exchanged (the wear would be on the right hand side of the post in the picture) – but well done to those who rebuilt this bridge two decades ago for preserving a little bit of industrial canal history.

How have I not spotted this before?