Reginald Horace Wilson

Transcript of an oral history recording, Monday 10th March 2003

I was born on the 11th October 1911 at 45 Waterfall Lane, Old Hill, and Staffordshire. A house, which is still there, built in the heart of the Black Country. On a very steep hill, the waterfall was at the top of the hill, you couldn’t push the pram very well and we couldn’t spin our tops.

I remember coming down the road, after collecting some shopping, and I fell, the fish’n’chips went everywhere. The house was a front house, we didn’t go through the front door into the front room, we had another room at the back and a kitchen and behind that was a place where we kept rabbits, then behind that was the toilet and behind that was the garden. I’ve got in my garden a red peony, which came from that garden, dad was very good at growing beans, he always planted the beans on his birthday, we would pick them and put them in salt to preserve them.

The house had five rooms in total, two upstairs and three down, no bathroom, we had a long tin bath, there was only three lived in the house. Mother, Matilda Everton born 1887 and died 1981, aged 94. She went to Quinton Church School, she was always called Tillie. I have a framed certificate of attendance dated 1897, in the other room. Mother made silk shapes to put in waistcoats; we went to a factory at Stourbridge Junction. Both my mother and aunt were trained to do needlework. Her mother was a Cooper (a family of Coopers who were artists); they came to Hurst Green to live by the farms.

mother

Father was called Frederick Thomas Wilson; he began work in an office in 1904 as an education officer and worked until he was 87. Every so often he would do the Census, all hand written in a red book. He was also an ambulance driver.

Grandfather Eli Everton was a carpenter from near Bellbroughton; he made me a dobbin to pull along my teddy bears. He made fences but the best thing he made was the milk cart, he made one for Mr White and another for the Quinton milkman, Mr Harris. I would help him by throwing the water on the metal tyre that went around the ring. His brother Benjamin was a blind man, who was trained at Bellbroughton School to make beehives. He didn’t do that; instead he went outside Birmingham Market and played his fiddle, pretending to be a beggar.

We always went on a Saturday to Birmingham Market to buy chickens and rabbits. During the war rabbits were on ration, if we didn’t get rabbits we would have no meat. Sometimes she was lucky and would get her rabbits from Nelson Moore in Blackheath.

We got to Birmingham on the train, Old Hill Station to Snow Hill and then walk to the market. The transport to Quinton was nothing; we had to walk from Old Hill to Quinton, down the hill to my aunt who lived at the corner house, next to Hawthorn Farm. Transport in the early 1900s was really the train. From Old Hill station you could go to Stourbridge and you could go right to Fishguard, South Wales. Old Hill station was a junction, my Uncle Everton was a signalman at Old Hill Station, and there was a branch to Birmingham, Stourbridge, Halesowen and Dudley. You could catch the 8’oclock train from Stourbridge to Barry in Wales and you would be there by dinnertime. The cost was fairly reasonable, Shrewsbury return was about 7/6, and London was about a £1.

If you wanted to go to Blackheath, you would go down Waterfall Lane to the corner; a tram would come up round Perry Park Road, Holly Road, down the High Street, to the end of the High Street and stop at the Dragon Hotel. It would come back again to go back to Cradley Heath of if you like on to Dudley. The price of the tram from Old Hill to Blackheath was one penny.

I was taken to school, at the age of five, by a girl called Annie Bennett. The headmistress was called Miss Gill; they were very strict at that school. On bonfire night we would get together in the backyard for a bonfire, we collected the bits of coal from the pit mound and between the holes we put potatoes to roast.

Food was on ration but my grandfather Everton kept pigs in Nimmings Road, so we always had a bit of pork; also we had home made beer.

When I was a boy we would play tennis on a private court just by the MEB. My playing partner was called Jean Overton, she lived in Narrow Lane. Granddad would take us through the fields, via the Abbey to the Black Horse. Grandmother Wilson had nail shops in Blackheath, they also sold rivets, and he sold his business to Lenches.

When the zeppelins came over during the war, they shut down the furnaces and the brickworks, so the glows would not go into the sky, I left the house and went to see a neighbour, I call him Granddad Smith, I saw the zeppelin go over and drop a bomb, he tried to get the railway station and the tunnel.

You will find there are a lot of pubs in Blackheath, because of the men who worked in the factories making nuts and bolts, rivets and coalmining. If you had a father down at the coalmine, you would have to take your dad’s dinner, you would take his sandwiches and a flagon of cold tea.

When I left school, Dad got me a job at the income tax offices, 61 High Street, Old Hill. I worked with a Mr Owen, he was never there, he used to stop every day to have his haircut. At the end of the day I used to have the money put in the books and take it down to Lloyds to bank. I was only 16 and for that I had a £1 per week. I had to record all the money and one day the Inspector came along. He said “you’ve got your accounts wrong, you’ve got five different books, schedule A, B, C, D and E, different taxes entered in all the books. Burton and Delinpoles had a doubt going back to 1900, they had been defrauding the country of tax, there were five of them, two-committed suicide because of the money they owed. I wanted to be a doctor but I got my diploma and became a teacher. My first school was in Lawrence Lane, Old Hill, opposite the church. One day I remember a boy didn’t come into school so I recorded him absent in the register, he had no shoes to wear, so I got him some wellingtons. The following week he was absent again, so I asked him why, his mother had sold his wellingtons for beer, for drink. My wages at school were about £ 39 when I retired.

There were many farms around Quinton and the area. On the corner of Hurst Green Road was a place where they sold the beer, that wasn’t a farm but the licence has now been taken over by The Fairfield. The first farm was the one belonging to David Parkes, the artist. His father went over the road to the clay pits, where they made the brown and the blue/purple bricks, they were made in the area and down to Cakemore, the Atwood family was in charge. The first farm was Mance Farm, not a big farm, his wife did dressmaking. Next was Evertons later Cooper Farm, and a little allotment, one side of the house was all brick no windows because of the wind. Mother would go across the fields to the spring in the golf links to collect fresh water. Next was Harpers Farm, he later became a builder and later with Danks of Quinton. They split up the land. The main farm was Merris’s, the Roundhills Farm, possibly prehistoric. Pipe stems and coins were found by the farmer who later moved to Turners Hill (on top of the hill in Dudley where the Romans came to), there was an earthquake sometime ago, well that was where the volcano was on top of Turners Hill. It has a tower on the top; it was where the guns were. The first bus up there was the 202 to Roundhills, but it’s never been excavated. Merris’s farm had cows, and he supplied Mr White and Mr Harris with the milk. He also sold eggs, peas and beans. Merris’s farm was also called Hagge Farm, which was at the end of the old golf links; really the Danilo was the end of the old golf links, now cut up by the motorway. Merris’s also had Thatchers farm. If you take the pathway by the side of the Danilo, about half a mile that bought you to Merris’s farm, it was the way my mother went to church and school. It is the way of the stream, Ridgeway is the water parting, hence the name. My mother’s farm was Cooper’s Farm, which was situated in the Perry Hill area.

I would walk with mother up Waterfall Lane, down Beeches Road, turn up Long Lane get to the top by the Stag and walk along the Hagley Road, past the farm and the house was on the corner. I would count the cars that passed us on the way, usually about half a dozen. Up Narrow Lane, there was a factory that made bullets for the war. Behind the factory was a range where they would try the bullets out, and then I was changed over to where they made the polished steel. Opposite that was Mucklows, an iron works, then next to that was Thatcher’s farm. The Mucklow family lived at the corner house, which is still there and the Mucklow factory is still there, but the factory is now an estate.

You would go up Narrow Lane to the corner, where there was a house, which was a convalescent home, owned by Chances, and then there was a little cottage, then the cemetery. My mother worked in the cottage off Narrow Lane as a home help. You would walk along; there were two houses together, with a big tree outside, right by the edge of the cemetery. Then where the Danilo was you would see Danks’s farm with the big house, which was called Apsley House. After that was Monckton House, and on the opposite corner was this old barn which, was Mr.Harris’s farm, he supplied milk to Quinton, and all around. He would take the milk around, his wife used to wear a black necklace around her neck; he would say, “What do you want, half-pint, pint or quart?”

There weren’t many shops on the left going to Bearwood, all I can remember are two old houses opposite the church, down Stoney Lane was my doctor, Dr. McQueen, and he had two sons.

Down the hill you would come to the junction where the road joined from Perry Hill, this was called Cooper’s Poles because they had poles along the road holding up the fence. On the corner was a barn, the man who lived there moved to Hagley and started a place for selling plants. Further down the hill was Hawthorn farm and then on the opposite side of the Road where the Hollybush was, was a little cottage called, “Holly Cottage”. The Woods family lived at the next corner and they named every road after a tree etc. Forest, Holly, Chestnut, Elm etc. The Nicholls family lived at Hawthorn Farm and Nicholls, the artist, did the drawing. The Red Lion was an ordinary house with two bay windows and an extension on the right.

My mother went to a place at Bearwood to learn her sewing. You could go to Warley Abbey, which was a large castellated house, it was in the park and you could have tea and scones there. Howley Grange was just a house, which you got to via a little path. It was renowned because of the spear that was to be found there left by Charles II.

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