BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

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

Posts tagged ‘memorial’

#365daysofbiking Monumental controversy

July 22nd – I’ve been riding through Bloxwich more often since the Chase Line upgrade, and I keep passing the remarkable sculpture of Lady Diana Spencer outside the monumental Masons that commissioned it. It’s certainly an unusual landmark.

The sculpture was made around the year 2000 in tribute to the deceased Princess, but when unveiled, it was black, shiny granite and was ridiculed for looking more like Diana Ross (according to a local politician of the day) or Dennis Nordern in the view of a local news commentator.

It was donated to Walsalls Council, who refused it, declined to place it in the local art gallery, and ended up back with the donor after plans to put it on display were apparently vetoed by the palace.

Since then, it was sandblasted to remove the sheen, and it stands outside the Masons being, well… Somewhat incongruous.

I think it’s absolutely bloody awful.

You can criticise almost every aspect of it – but the one thing nobody ever comments on that has always baffled me – the shoes.

Has she just come from welding on a ship and forgot to change her boots?

A curious bit of local legend.

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#365daysofbiking Lamping it

February 24th – Piccadilly Mining Memorial, erected in 2009, is oddly similar in concept and design to the one created in 22006 in Hednesford. The lamp is made by CAM Engineering of Pyle, South Wales, who seem to have made several, including the one at Hednesford. The wall with names of miners inscribed in the bricks is also a feature at Hednesford.

The area around the tiny village of Piccadilly – now marooned by a huge oil terminal and large industrial parks – used to be occupied by several large coal mines, now closed, and mining heritage is strong here, so the desire for a memorial is under stable and totally appropriate.

I just seems a bit… Off the peg to me.

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#365daysofbiking Not forgotten:

December 6th – In an otherwise unremarkable, workaday wall  on a main road in Place, Walsall, one of the UK’s many hundreds of industrial memorials to the lost employees in the Great War.

The fourteen lost souls listed on the memorial worked for the Cyclops Foundry which was near where the plaque is now, and has long since passed into history – but the original memorial was saved and restored by the NHS, who operate Walsall Manor Hospital, opposite, not once, but twice: They refurbished the memorial in 1989, and replaced it totally in 2002.

I’m glad it survived and still stands today, bearing witness to those lives lost, and it’s good to see that 100 years on, people still place crosses here to remember them.

#365daysofbiking Not forgotten:

October 28th – I was charmed and humbled passing through Hednesford on a much needed restorative ride to Cannock Chase to note the main square has been decorated with knitted and other hand made poppies and material for Remembrance. 

It’s really very impressive, and sobering. It’s beautiful to see so many displays of Remembrance in towns and villages at the moment, particularly on the centennial anniversary of the end of the Great War.

My thanks and compliments to those who took time out to make and arrange this display. Real community in action.

June 16th – Always nice to meet a hog going about it’s business and this lovely one was near the Fullelove Memorial Shelter at the foot of Brownhills Parade. 

Healthy and very large, it was far too busy to pass the time of day  and scuffled off into the night and away from my attention.


November 12th – Also on the Chase on this magical afternoon, memorials of two very different, but conjoined wars.

Since it was Remembrance Sunday, I took in the Katyn Memorial, to the 25,000 Polish people – from troops to doctors, police to teachers – massacred in cold blood by the order of the Soviet Secret Police in the Katyn Forest, Poland, in 1940. The memorial was erected on the Chase some time ago, as Cannock has always had a large Polish population, from migration around the time of the Second World War. 

Shamefully, it took the Russians 50 years to admit to this atrocity, proof that the second half of the full two-part World War play inflicted it’s heaviest cost on Eastern Europe. There were many atrocities committed, by several different forces, all self-encapsulated horrors; it was as if grudges and conflicts unresolved by the First World War exploded and joined together upon the commencement of the Second.

The First world war was of course just as atrocious, but in different ways; the loss of a generation of men in the mud of Northern Europe can never be forgotten, particularly for a war ended by negotiation with no real victors. But the grave of Freda, the mascot of the New Zealand Rifles who were stationed here on Brocton Field towards the end of WW1 is almost whimsical in comparison to the Katyn tribute. But both are eloquent. Both are respected and tended.

And yet, we seem to learn so little from them.

October 8th – Up in the cinematic, wide open landscape of Brocton Field, there’s a historical, Great War curiosity that serves as a lovely memorial and good map explorer exercise for kids and newcomers to this fine place – Freda’s Grave.

The grave, off a minor footpath high above the Sherbrook Valley, is the resting place of the mascot of the New Zealand Rifles who were stationed here as the awful conflict came to a close. The harlequin Great Dane was very much loved, and her memorial has been periodically renewed and restored. 

It’s good to see so many people pay tribute, a testament to the UK (and New Zealand’s, of course) love affair with our best friends.

You can find out more about Freda here

I descended into the valley, and across a gradually darkened Chase lifted by the quality of the day, the ride and finally, fresh air and the joy of getting back to somewhere I love and hadn’t been for ages.

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 20th – A much better, brighter day for me, but not the weather, which got worse as the day went on.

Out for a meal and a ride with someone I’d been missing while they were on holiday, a ride out to a local pub for a huge steak blowout and then a ride to work it off.

There was no wind, and I started in sun; but it soon became overcast and the rain started. But for once it didn’t matter. Returning home 50 miles later in darkness and soaking wet was actually a joy after a wonderful trip out.

Travelling up the A515 through Abbots Bromley, I noticed the modernist, brutal concrete Jubilee Memorial bench, which must be one of the first examples of a very particular municipal style; and then the Best Kept Village trophy sign, which lists all the winners since the competition in Staffordshire began, which is actually fascinating.

I do wonder why that’s in Abbots Bromley, though, and not somewhere else. It seems very… specific.

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.