Farming, King Charles and the Two-way Pump

By Fred Clay

I was born on 21 February 1919. My family were Quinton people. My grandfather ran Ivyhouse Farm at the top of Stoney Lane and my father worked for him. There were no houses in Stoney Lane then. My grandmother used to take a basket of eggs and sell them to customers in Edgbaston - a moneyed area in those days. The farm ceased to function as such around the 1920s but the farmhouse continued in existence until it was demolished about 1936. I had four sisters. My eldest, Margaret, was a Sunday School teacher.

Every week until the age of fourteen I received a halfpenny for pocket money. I remember my weekly visit to Miss Field's sweet shop in High Street. I used to take ages deciding what to buy. Looking back, I think Miss Field must have been a very patient woman.

Quinton Park used to be at the back of my present home. Someone gave the park to the village and also the allotments, most of which were swallowed up by the Expressway when it was built in 1964.

Quinton was a nice place to live. It was all fields around here-right across to Hurst Green. Charlie Harris owned a field opposite the church. It stretched from Walters Road up to Kingsway. Quinton Villa Football Club played there. Walter Powell and Eddie Mullett were among the players. The club had a goat as their mascot. My dad used to keep it for them in a sty. I used to hold it while he milked it. It once pulled me over while I was holding its head.

When I was fifteen I took a job as a carpet fitter. I travelled to work every day in Birmingham on an old motor bus with open stairs. The driver's cabin was also open and in very bad weather he had only a tarpaulin to shield himself against the snow and rain.

I remember Will Foley and his wife. They were the last Foleys to live at Quinton House, though the Mulletts, who were related to them, subsequently lived there for a time.

My Uncle Herman volunteered for service in the Great War (1914-18). He joined the army. In those days, if you didn't volunteer people sent you white feathers, a symbol of cowardice, and he didn't want any of that! Sadly he died in France-not of war wounds but of pneumonia. One of our family heirlooms is a large gold plaque awarded to him in recognition of his service.

Having lost Herman, my father was rather put out to hear I had volunteered for the army at the start of the Second World War. They soon introduced conscription so I would have been called up anyway. I joined the Service Corps and, via Hungerford and Southampton, found myself in France (1939-40). I was trapped on the beach at Dunkirk for a week. We had to dig a trench and shelter in it from the enemy shells. We were then rescued and returned to Dover by ship. I slept all the way. The rest of my service was in this country. In 1944 my wrist was badly injured in a fire and needed surgery. I was invalided out and returned to my work as a carpet fitter, but from then on I was self-employed.

My mother was in service. She worked at the Brennands' house on Perry Hill. They were keen church people. They used to turn up at the parish church here in Quinton every Sunday and were always chauffeur driven. They say the pump which is still in the garden of Inglenook cottage was the village pump, but in fact lots of the houses had pumps and wells. There is one under my house here in Meadow Road. I remember most of the shops. The 'Shaggy Dog' shop was a grocer's and draper's. Then there was Smith's on the Hagley Road West who dealt in timber and ironmongery. The Smith brothers were Stan, Cliff, Geoff, Ran (Randolph), Eric and Ken. Stan used to run for Birchfield Harriers and also for England. Geoff wasn't involved in running the shop; he was a journalist. They used to make ammunition boxes for the army and they got the underfelt they needed from me. They also made packing cases for British Leyland and dabbled a bit in house building.

I have a vague recollection of the spear that King Charles II was supposed to have left at Howley Grange. I heard it was stolen after the building became derelict. Towards the end of its days, Mr Brown the builder owned Howley Grange. It was being run down as a farm by then, probably because of plans for building development. The land was left as rough pasture and race horses were kept on it. They were fine specimens. I remember my brother-in-law weaning some calves there for Mr Brown. The last occupant of Howley Grange was Heber Rose. He was a milk retailer. It wasn't really operating as a farm by then.

Getting back to pumps, did you know about Jim Parkes' business in Bissell Street? It was founded by his father. Jim's uncle, Harry Parkes, invented the two-way pump. Harry, who was disabled, had a workshop by the Municipal Bank. Jim Parkes' factory was responsible for production and they had a contract to supply the Westinghouse Brake Co. with these pumps. The firm existed, if I remember, either side of the Second World War. Both men were very intelligent. Harry owned a Standard Tourer motorcar and had a cottage in the Wyre Forest.

QLHS 2000

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