War, Sport & Jewellery

By Ron Smith

I was born at 15 Meadow Road in 1921. The house is now demolished. My father was from Blackheath and my mother from Spies Lane, though she was born in Hales Owen and related to the Somers family. I was a jewellery maker and employed by the same firm in Hockley all my working life.

Among my earliest memories is Field's French Polishing business, one of whose employees was Freddie Clay's uncle, Herman Blundell. Mr Field also employed some of the local girls. He lived in High Street, but the workshop was at the top of Meadow Road. It was there, as I recall, from before the Great War till about 1930. I never saw the spear at Howley Grange, but I remember people talking about it. I too heard that it was stolen.

Fred Bissell lived at Lilac Cottage, which is still there at the bottom of Meadow Road. He had a building yard on Bissell Street. Being a carpenter and joiner, he was also involved in the undertaking business.

I well remember the large mound at Howley Grange. I was told it was a barrow (or ancient burial mound). It stood on what is now the school playing field. It was removed to create a level surface.

Shepherd's haulage company came from the Smethwick area and took premises near the bottom of High Street. Gordon and Roy Shepherd ran the business. They were brothers. Gordon eventually set up his own separate haulage company on Mucklow Hill but Roy stayed on in High Street till about the 1980s.

When the Second World War broke out I joined the Local Defence Volunteers, later renamed the Home Guard. At first we had no uniforms and no weapons. We used to do drill on Brandhall Golf Course with broomsticks instead of rifles.

Then I left the Home Guard and served in the RAF Regiment. It was our job to protect aerodromes from air attack. In 1944 I switched to the Coldstream Guards for two and a half years and saw action in Italy. We were up in the mountains, attached to the British 6th Armoured Division, the American 5th Army and, later, the 8th Army.

Until about the 1950s there was a small police station in one of those little houses on Hagley Road West between High Street and the school drive. The first policeman I remember was Joe Smith who was based there in the 1920s. Then there was P.C. Wiggin. Later there was P.C. Bill Tarrant who had an allotment and was the village bobbie till he retired.

Quinton Cricket Club used to play their games on the old college ground at Quinton Hall. Quinton Hall FC, a Birmingham Alliance club, played their football matches there too. (Quinton Villa had been defunct for some time. Their ground had been taken for housing development.) Doctor Daly played for Quinton Hall; so did Jim Parkes, a powerful fullback. When they built houses on the college ground as well, Quinton Cricket Club had to move out to Wassell Grove near Stourbridge where they lost their pavilion in a fire.

Jim Parkes (also known as Arnold ) was a bit of a character. I remember him scoring a penalty once in his stockinet feet. He lived in several different houses including the Old Nail house and Pax Hall. He owned a garage opposite Beech Cottage (which was then a sweet shop). He turned the garage into a cafe during the Second World War. Later he moved away to run a public house in the countryside.

QLHS 2000

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