Old Emails, Letters and Articles from the Archives

The first is a letter dated 3rd August 1979 from Mr. WFH James of Water Eaton, Bletchley, Buckinghamshire to The Head Master of Quinton School, Quinton, Birmingham which was headed “Old School Records”

Dear Sir,

I was informed the other day, that you had various records of children’s work etc. Of approximately 100 years ago.

As my father 1872 -1954 Arthur James, and his younger brothers, George Stewart and William all attended Quinton School, and were baptised in Quinton Church. I thought it possible that your records may include something appertaining to them.

The James family originated from Wrexham around 1715 but associations with this town remained for a long time, as there is record of my great aunt being born there in 1828.

My father’s father Henry, 1821 -1908, lived in one of a row of cottages on the Birmingham side of the church, and was a gun stocker, working in Birmingham. His uncle, William James D. L. JP 1794-1875 was chairman of the Water Works Company and had his own accountancy business, first in Cannon Street and later in Waterloo Street Nos 35-36. He lived at a house named Chad Mont, Augustus Road, Edgbaston on the corner of Chad Road, unfortunately demolished in 1971.

Here according to the records, he goes down as a great entertainer and among his guest was Prince Canino (Lucien Bonaparte 1775-1840) who was captured by the English while on his way to America in 1810. Lucien bought a house named “Thorngrove” near the village of Grimley, about four miles north of Worcester and lived there for some years.

Sorry to go on, but would be very grateful if you have anything of interest. I have about 60 people on the James family tree to date, which I have been working on for 12 years.

I was born in Bearwood and lived for many years in Harborne, knowing the district rather well, except for modern alterations.

Well it is a pity that QLHS wasn’t formed till 1999 or indeed no doubt Mr James didn’t have access to the school registers now in QLHS Archive section.





Arthur Frederick




Henry James

Gun Stocker










Henry James

Gun Stocker










Henry James

Gun Maker


The above is a copy of entries regarding the James admissions but I couldn’t find their Baptisms

Leslie S Thompson of Clydesdale Road responded to an article by Heather Higgins in a local newspaper of the time.

Dear Sir, Heather Higgins in her article in the “Land of the Great Divide” makes much of the lack of communal feeling and unneighbourliness which she observed in Quinton.

I have been for several years Quinton correspondent for a local paper and 21 years a resident in the parish, so I feel that I can lay just claim to some qualifications as an authority on local life and conditions.

Heather Higgins is quite correct in her perception of a lack of community feeling among the residents. This is not an inherent characteristic but due to three major causes. These are economical, geographical and administrative.

Those delightful, well painted little villas which she admired are, for the most part, owned and occupied by working-class and minor-professional folk whose main preoccupation lies in getting a living, and in trying to cope with ever-increasing all-round costs on a largely stationery income.

Proud in their independence and adhering to traditions which are scorned as old-fashioned in this hot-bed of parasitism called a Welfare State; their difficulties are ignored by Government and local Council alike.

Their leisure time is largely occupied in maintaining and decorating those same little villas because they cannot afford the charges demanded by the professional men. Many have neither car nor television and the modest little garage at the side is let out to someone more fortunate.

Quinton, by virtue of its geographical situation, for example the High Street by the parish church is 7266 feet above sea-level and the highest point within the Birmingham boundary, has much hard weather and severe winters, so it is little wonder if the residents show small desire to forsake their firesides once the day’s work is over.

Little has been done by the Birmingham City Council to improve the amenities of the district; indeed people only exist in Quinton through the eyes of Bumbledom (defined in Dickens as “the world of petty and incompetent officials”) as contributing units to the General Rate Fund.

Much has been said and done with respect to community centres for council estates but even an old-established branch of the city library was removed from High Street to a council estate on the parish borders, despite protests.

Heather Higgins has been misinformed with regard to the “oldest inhabitant”. There are quite a number of people who have lived a lifetime in Quinton. Indeed, the families of Parkes, Bissells and Dearns to name only three, are scattered over the locality and their roots go down deep into the past.

A Parkes and a Bissell were Trustees of Turnpikes on the Hagley Road. The recently demolished Warley Abbey was erected in the 18th Century to the order of Hubert Galton and is unlikely to have had any “subterranean passages”.

The old Warley Grange, associated with the mysterious Ralph de Warley, was built in Chapel Field on what is now the golf course, probably in the 13th Century.

It has been said that a secret passage ran from here to the Praemonstratensian Abbey at Halesowen, of which it was a cell. A glance at local contours will show how impossible a feat this would have been.

Lovers of sanitation and good drainage, the monks built their drains large and deep and it is probably this fact which gave birth to the legend of secret passages.

Ed’s comment- I found a copy of the article and thought that it was worth sharing the gentleman’s comments with you all. I would imagine the article was published in the 1950s as Mr Thompson mentions the demolition of Warley Abbey, which was of course in 1957, so the article must be about 60 years old one would imagine but still relevant today? I will add that had Heather been a member of the history society she would have changed her opinion of Quinton folk.

Finally a newspaper article in the Birmingham Mail on Friday December 14th 1962-headlines was:-

Girls Flee Shop Fire”

Shop girls climbed by ladder from the top floor to safety this afternoon when smoke cut their escape route during a fierce blaze at Quinton. Thirteen girls raced for safety through the front entrance of the affected building, Boots the Chemists, 518 Hagley Road, Quinton. But clouds of choking smoke cut off four girls at the top of the three storey building. An employee of a grocery store nearby found a ladder, carried it to the blazing building and propped it up against the wall for the girls to escape through a window.

One of the shop assistants who were trapped on the top floor said “I could smell smoke but did not hear the fire alarm go off. It was impossible for the four of us to get downstairs and the next thing I knew was the thud of a ladder being placed on the window sill outside. The four of us crawled one by one down the ladder to safety. But there was no panic”.

Hollybush Shops in the 1950s

When the fire broke out, Mr. C. G. Whitehead, Territorial General Manager of Boots rang the fire alarm. Birmingham firemen tackled the blaze from both sides of the building. They had the blaze under control within 35 minutes. Firemen had to pump water 50 yards across the main road from a hydrant outside the Holly Bush public house.

After the fire began, smoke was soon pouring from the windows. Five firemen used breathing apparatus to enter the building. Then another15 firemen moved in to pour hundreds of gallons of water on to the flames. Damage was confined to store rooms but filtering smoke damaged other rooms in the building.

Extra police were drafted into the area to patrol traffic on the main road. Birmingham Corporation buses and Midland Red buses were diverted via Wood Green Road. Mr Whitehead said “At this stage it is impossible to say how much this fire has cost us, but it will obviously rum into hundreds of pounds. Much of the Christmas stock has been ruined.

The fire was brought under control before the flames spread to adjoining premises. At the Maypole Dairy Company next door business continued as normal. “We noticed smoke but we were not asked to evacuate the shop”, a spokesman of the Maypole shop said.

Crowds watched the fire brigade tackle the outbreak.

Ed’s comment-I bet some of you remember this incident so if I find any others I will include them

Hello Bernard

I contacted you a number of years ago as I was writing the biography of my relation, Larry Stephens, who grew up in Quinton.

I wanted to let you know that I am now working with the crowd funding publisher, Unbound, and the QLHS will be getting a mention in the 'acknowledgments' section of my book to thank you for your help.

I am sending you the link to my book's page which includes a synopsis, an extract and a video (click the link below).


Kind regards, Julie Warren

Ed’s comment-Thanks Julie for the email and the mention in your book, we’re always glad to help

Dear Bernard,

I have just been reading the May Oracle. I think you should withdraw it and destroy all copies. Do you have any idea what the “Pictorial Memories of Birmingham” do to me.

New St. Happy afternoons spent at the Forum Cinema when I should have been studying in the Reference library.

Jumping off the No9 at the top, into a shop, dashing across town and catching the same bus in Colmore Row.

No 9 at Kings Head. It could well be my Morris van alongside, cannot read the number, but I always had the sun visor down, as in the picture.

The Kings Highway tales of my elder brother Clive drinking with the American soldiers in the war. Someone firing a revolver into the ceiling the night peace was declared.

The Kardomah Cafe. I might have got somewhere in life if I had not spent so long in there.

They can say what they like. They were better years.


Robert Hathaway

Ed’s comment-Thanks Robert for those kind words, my new feature seems to have had quite an effect on you all. I love looking at old photos and it would appear that this is the case for most of our members. So I have decided that the feature will be a regular one from now on

Click here to go back to the Oracle page.