QLHS Newsletter

Letters and Emails to the Editor 2010


I wonder whether you could possibly help me at all.  I'm desperately trying to find information on my Great Grandfather, Albert Elwell who served as a fireman in Quinton in the 1930's, I think he retired in 1939?  I've been scouring the internet and came across your website and thought you maybe able to help?

He lived with his wife Florence at 25 Bissell Street, Quinton but sadly Florence died of cancer and Albert left after he retired.  They had 2 children, Albert Jnr and Olive, who were born in 1918 and 1922.

Albert died in the 1960's and his son, my grandfather has sadly passed away too so any information you may have would be incredibly valuable to me as he didn't speak much about his family.

Claire Jupp

Dear Mr Taylor

Again many thanks for another fabulous edition of the Quinton Oracle and all the best for your celebrations in November.

Is it possible to ask for help through your magazine for the Bissell Family? Number 3 Meadow Road – originally from cottages near to Meadow Road. Sam Bissell, my grandfather, was involved with the merging of Quinton with Birmingham and also with the first fire engine. The family were all well-known Methodists arranging concert parties etc in the village.

My parents were Sam and Jane Bissell, Sam was a builder and his son Fred was a butcher. Jane stayed at home to look after her parents. Doll worked for Birmingham Gas Company and sang in Birmingham Town Hall concerts etc. George lived at Northfield. James who served in the army in the First World War was the manager of General Accident Insurance Company in Birmingham. Heber, who served in the Royal Flying Corps, went to Bourne College after being given a scholarship and entertained the troops during the World Wars-he had a brilliant tenor voice. Basil also served in the Royal Flying Corps was badly injured in World War One, he worked for Birmingham Corporation and stayed with army friends in Compton Wynates. The official version was that he committed suicide there but maybe a fight broke out, however all papers relating to the case have been destroyed. Emmie married Mr. Rutter, a lay preacher, and lived in Ridgacre Road. Three children died and another daughter died about 20 years of age.

I realise how busy you are but if you could mention the Bissells at sometime I would be grateful.

Many thanks

Jane Cooke

Ed’s Comment - Jane would love to speak to anyone that knew her family “The Bissells” you can telephone her on 01788-542921

Dear Sirs,


The Birmingham & Midland Motor Omnibus Trust operates The Transport Museum at Wythall, just south of Birmingham. Our principal interest is in the history of buses in the Midlands region, but we are also interested in commercial and emergency vehicles. Further information about us may be found on our website: www.wythall.org.uk. I am Editor of the Museum's journal 'Omnibus'.


However, we also have an interest in the history of RAF Wythall, because The Transport Museum occupies part of the site of the erstwhile RAF camp.


We originally published a brief history of RAF Wythall in 'Omnibus' in December 1989, but did not pursue the matter further at the time. However, our interest in the subject was renewed a year ago after the RAF Linguists Association unveiled a plaque nearby. It is also a subject mentioned by a number of our visitors, who remember the camp. This has prompted us to undertake further research for a history about RAF Wythall now on our website (this section is at www.wythall.org.uk/raf), which we hope will continue to be updated as we discover more about the subject.


One of our members drew attention to the story of the Heinkel 111 that crashed in Smethwick in April 1941, having first read the story in the 'Black Country Bugle' and more recently discovered it on the Quinton At War website. This story is of interest to us, because the barrage balloon that disabled the aircraft was one of those controlled by RAF Wythall. 


There are a couple of aspects of the story about which we are curious. One is the location of the barrage balloon itself. Does anyone know where it was? I have seen mention of a balloon site on or near Ridgacre Road, Quinton; could it be that one? The other is the direction of the aircraft, which (unless I have misunderstood the reports) suggests that it was flying south. Yet Balden Road, where part of its wing fell off after hitting the balloon cable is south of Hales Lane, where it finally crashed, implying it was heading north. Or was it spun round by the impact and/or the imbalance of losing part of the wing?


Andrew Gardner,
Editor 'Omnibus' The Transport Museum, Wythall

Ed’s comment-Can anyone help with any information- I have sent Andrew the Smethwick Book written by Peter Kennedy on the subject- but is there any more we can send him?

Dear Mr Taylor

I have been communicating with Barbara Deakin at the Quinton Church Primary School to try to locate the school that was attended by my father between 1914 and 1922.  She has advised that I might contact you for some further suggestions.

Through the archives on the QLHS web site I have identified another member of his family (Robert Garnet Gill) who was enrolled at the Quinton Church Primary School in 1907.  However, there is no listing for a Claud Gill (my father) at the same school in the time period mentioned above. All other primary schools in the area appear to have been first established much later than 1922.  This eliminates them as possible schools for my father’s attendance.

In the information I have about my father’s family, it seems that they lived at Red Hall (or Reddall) Farm between about 1900 and 1910, moving to the area from Cradley.  It is said that the family then moved to Moor End Farm (also known as Mop Beggar Farm) about 1910.  This farm has been described by the family as the “last place in Harborne or the first place in Quinton”.  I am wondering if this move might have put my father into a Harborne School District.  Can you suggest if there are specific schools in this area to which I might make some inquiries?  

I am most impressed by the web site of the QLHS.  I admire the photo on the home page and was disappointed that it did not copy when printing off the home page.  Is there any way that this is possible?  Also, do you know if there are any photos of Red Hall Farm, Moor End Farm or Mop Beggar Farm? I would appreciate your thoughts on the above queries – any suggestions will be gratefully received.


Sherrill Bell
Canberra, Australia

Ed’s comment-Photos have been emailed to a very happy lady is Oz

Dear everyone


After nearly 3 years in the writing at long last the book "A Dream Comes True" A History of St Hubert's Church and School has been published.  The cost of the book is £7.50.  All proceeds from the sales of the book will go directly to the church and school funds.


The book is a celebration of how the church and then the school came into being, together with the history of the wealthy Galton family of Warley Abbey who made the building of the church possible. It charts the history of the church and school from the 1930's to 2007 (the school's 70th Anniversary), describing the effects of wartime on the school children, events at the school, with many photos of teachers, pupils, sports days and memories of many ex-pupils and much more ........

If you would like to purchase a copy of the book at the moment they are only available directly from myself or from the school office. Obviously if you are able to collect your book either directly from the school or from myself that would be great. I can personally deliver within the immediate local area but only if you are not able to collect directly yourself for whatever reason.

I am aware that obviously some of you live a considerable distance from the school and if this is the case then the book will have to be posted to you.  As the aim of the book is to raise much needed funds for the school and the church then we will have to ask you to please pay postage and packing costs where necessary.  If you require postage then please contact me directly so that I can find out for you how much postage and packing will cost to your part of the world.

I am also trying to avoid the school office having to get too "bogged" down with administration etc as they are busy with the day to day running of the school, so I would appreciate any contact regarding orders and collection to be made to myself first please so I can advise the school office that you will be in to collect the book and they can expect you.


Thank you for your anticipated support.  I look forward to hearing from you.


With best regards,
Gay Smallwood
0121 422 6905, Mobile 07972511870

19 Edward Road, Oldbury, West Midlands, B68 0LZ

Ed’s comment-I have included Gay’s details in case anyone would like a copy

Dear Chair

I enclose a photo of what I regard as one of Quinton’s best treasures. It is of course the enormous 9’ x 5’ glacial boulder at Barn Piece. It is really pleasing that the boulder has been rescued and displayed as it is. But how widely known is this Ice Age relic and what can the public learn from it?

Glacial Boulder

Although not a professional geologist or even an amateur I have spent a lot of time finding great glacial boulders in South Birmingham and am trying to raise their public profile. I was directed to the one in Quinton, which is much the largest I have seen in the region, by staff at Woodgate Valley Country park, where there are two less prominent boulders.

I understand that most of the boulders in Birmingham area came from North Wales carried along in an ice sheet that was hundreds of feet thick. This all happened not millions but only thousands of years ago during an ice age that is still going on-hence the great Polar ice sheets of today. I am wondering whether your society may help to raise public awareness of the glacial relics and perhaps be instrumental in having an information plaque placed near the one in the photo above.

I should be pleased to hear from you about the matter and am willing to provide more information if required.

Yours sincerely
Roland Kedge

Ed’s comment-I will contact Roland for a chat but does anyone else have knowledge of the above?

Dear Bernard

I have known about the QLHS for years and have contacted you before. But on reading the newsletter archive tonight, I thought I should submit my memories before they fade away. My maternal grandmother's family lived in Frederick Road from 1935. They had bravely taken the step of emigrating from Harborne. As the family could trace their roots to Edgbaston Old Church from the 1400's, this was indeed a momentous occasion. My great grandmother bought the house outright after her husband died. Her sister lived across the road. The house was the family home until my grandmother died in 1990.

My paternal grandparents lived on Lower White Road. So we were very much a Quinton family although I spent some of my early years in Stourbridge. But the trip on the 130 every week was always referred to as "going home". Although many people have referred to the buses and the bus terminus, not many people have mentioned that the number 9 bus was in fact the main social hub of the area.

Everyone knew everyone else on the bus and how they were inter related and of course all their business. My grandmother's generation all had what I referred to as "the bus voice".

I used to sit mesmerised, listening to my grandmother chatting away in this clipped upper crust accent to fellow passengers. As soon as we got off the bus, she would revert to her usual Brummie twang. She also used the same voice when speaking to local dignitaries at the local fete, the vicar, the doctor and anyone in an official capacity. My grandmother worked in Hanhams bakery and was good friends with Mrs Hanham. They both were very good at the "bus voice". There was a metal rack to put your bags on that ran along the counter and I would sit or stand on it watching over the tall glass counter. We would choose a freshly baked loaf and cakes that would fit into the cardboard cake boxes (my favourites were pineapple creams). Individual cakes would fit into paper bags which would be expertly twirled around in the air. When I grew up, I wanted to work in Hanhams bakery and twirl the paper bags around and ring up the price on the till with the bell. Mother said that working in a bakery was not a suitable career path and by the time I was of working age, paper bags and manual tills had long gone. On the opposite corner to the bakers was a convenience store. A forerunner to the supermarket. It stocked everything.

In fact, it stocked so much that you could hardly squeeze in the door. For reasons which I never asked, we did not frequent this shop. Then next door to there was a greengrocers run by two very old ladies who I think were sisters. The bell rang as you walked in the shop and it had a wooden floor and a long wooden counter. The smell was of earth. Potato and carrot earth mixed with damp. There was nothing on show. But anything you asked for would magically appear from under the counter. The walls were brown and the paintwork was a dark green and I'm sure the shop had not changed in the last 50 years at least. At the end of the row was the fish and chip shop. We would go on a Friday night and stand in the large queue which formed right the way back to the gulley. Fish and chips were still wrapped in newspaper at this time. On the opposite side of the road there was a florist, a wool shop, an opticians and Alfords newsagents. But Alfords was always known to us as Boo Boo's as that is what my sister called it. Then across White Road was Dalloways fishmongers....the smell I will never forget. It permeated the whole area. Then there was a shop which sold dry goods and they had a big bacon slicer. This alone was a fascination and co incidentally; the lady that sliced the bacon and ham also had a hairy mole on her chin. To a five year old, this was a very important point and a source of great amusement. Then there was Burr's chemist that smelt of cough medicine and the Nat West Bank that smelt very musty. The Chinese restaurant was there from at least the early 1970's and seemed rather incongruous at the time. Although my parents’ generation frequented it, it was eyed with suspicion by my grandparents’ generation.....a shop that you walked past but would never dream of walking into. The fact that it had a beaded curtain at the door and blinds at the windows added an air of mystery which they were reluctant to venture into.  Then there was the washeteria that smelled of soap powder and hot air.

In the 1970's it was run by Mrs Charrington. Then the carpet shop which took up three shop frontages. I can't remember the next few shops but on the end was Winnie's. Boo Boos sold magazines and sweets and chocolates but Winnies sold the penny chews and had an almost endless selection of jars and boxes to choose from. The choosing could take a very long time.

My sister and I would go to school on the bus from White Road to Quinton Church School. We would stand up as soon as the bus passed Wilmington Road and you could hang out of the back of the bus whilst going round the big island. Before the days of health and safety, the bus conductors turned a blind eye to what would now be regarded as an extremely dangerous activity.

No. 9 bus

The Quinton 9 with the open door at the rear

Of course, with the bus being the local source of gossip, by the time we returned from school, Mum would always know what we had been up to. The bus was always full of aunties and uncles (some related other's not although to a child, it was difficult to work out) and so was a great source of pocket money. The 5p and 10p could quickly mount up. Added to the fact that if we blagged a lift home from a passing relative (usually Uncle Ray on his way home from his shift at the telephone exchange on Ridgacre Road) or decided to walk, that was another 2p saved.

If we went shopping further afield we would go "down the hill". Mum and Nan liked to shop in George Masons. To a child, this was very boring and my life's mission was to nag them into buying a jar of Camp coffee which they always refused to do. I hadn't a clue what it was but just liked the picture of the Indian in his finery on the label.

Camp Coffee

Unfortunately I cannot show the original label and if you read the following from the London Evening Standard you will understand why.“The Makers of Camp Coffee have changed the label on their famous jars after complaints of racism. The makers of the chicory flavoured essence are now using a label showing a Scottish soldier sitting side by side drinking coffee with a turbanned Sikh. Earlier labels showing the Indian apparently serving the kilted soldier and this provoked a storm of protest from racial equality groups who claimed at the time that the label delivered “an offensive and racist” message. Initially the firm removed the tray from the Sikh’s hands but later the two men are sitting side by side, therefore, no longer promoting the master-servant Days of the Raj message.

With the chores over, we could then go to Woolworths for a treat. I always wanted one of the monkeys which they hung around the ceilings but I never got one. The treat usually consisted of caps for my gun or a colouring book. Then on the way back, we would stop at the toy shop to look in the window. If I was really lucky, I also got a ride on the horse outside.

There is a photograph of my grandmother in your book on Quinton. It was taken on Silver Jubilee day in 1977. She had been organising street parties in her road since the war. She loved to be in the centre of community life and did a lot for the neighbours around her. But she also loved her family and they were the most important thing in her life.

Jubilee Photo

Her home was the place where all the family met up and there was always a buzz and a lot of fun and laughter. I miss her and I miss that generation of people who were so kind and caring and fun to be with. And I miss the community feeling and the sense of belonging. Quinton at that time was a special place to grow up in.

As a final note, my Mum always maintains that she saw the airman parachuting out of the plane that crashed (I think she must mean the crash in Birch Road) and it is her earliest memory. Nan with some other women divided the parachute up between them and she took it home and make silk underwear for all the women in the road. But reading some of the recollections, this doesn't sound possible. She also mentioned the airman going into the water tank? Does anyone know what this meant and would her story be possible?

Best wishes,

Ed’s comment-Lovely memories from this contributor, who wishes to remain anonymous. Are there any more that have memories/stories but wish to remain anonymous?

Dear Bernard


I was very interested to read the Christ Church, Quinton, Burial Records as my brother, father and mother are all buried in the same grave in the churchyard. The name spellings in all three cases have errors but no doubt this is because the originals were handwritten and caused confusion with the translations.

You no doubt are familiar with our family grave as it was the sole grave still tended in the churchyard, just to the left of the pathway over to the church. It was marked by a concrete urn for flowers and never had a headstone. My mother tended the grave of my brother from 1926 till her death in 1985 hardly ever missing a week even if the weather was severe. Unfortunately, there is now no one to tend to it as I live in Australia, my sister lives in Lancaster and my brother in Solihull and we are all in our 80's. Since my last visit 12 months ago my brother Ken has removed the urn and replaced the turf. The urn is now in his back garden in Solihull.   Gladys Jones who is well known to you is my cousin and she is probably wondering what has happened to it as I gather the grave aroused a great deal of interest over the years.

My parents Elfie Jones and Albert Mallin were married in the church on the 19th May 1923 and I was christened there in 1930. My grandparents house is just visible by the tall chimney pots just past the Wesleyan Chapel in your website photograph.

I remember the old Toll House and the Chapel and many other buildings mentioned from time to time. When I visited Quinton, with Gladys, in September 2009 I was horrified to see what the "developers" had done to the lovely old village. Especially the demolition of the Kings Highway Hotel which I remember being built and surely couldn't have reached its "Use By" date.

I enjoyed visiting the old Burial Ground and seeing all the restoration work. My sister and I always used to enjoy visiting the area with all the lovely ornate headstones back in the 1930's and it was a very sad sight in the 1980's being almost overgrown with brambles.

Overgrown site

Consecrated side showing overgrown with brambles etc

I often log on to your web site and enjoy reading the reminiscences of Warley, Quinton and Harborne as I spent the first 21 years of my life in the area before moving to Coventry then Australia in 1967.

Keep up the good work.

All the very best to you all for 2011.

Margaret Statham

Ed’s Comment-Thank you Margaret for your kind words, as for the Burial Ground the work being done by the Birmingham Young Offenders is almost complete. Here are a few photographs showing the wonderful work they have done on clearing the ground, when the work is complete the Church hope to declare the area as a closed churchyard. Birmingham City Council should then carry out any maintenance work that is required.

Cleared burial ground

The site after clearance

Cleared burial ground

Cleared burial ground

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