Bissell Street Memories

By Winifred Courier

Winifred Courier, who was born in 1906, first lived at 25 Bissell Street. She was one of nine children born to Arthur Masters and his wife Charlotte. Arthur Masters was the fireman.

My earliest memories are of a lovely village with some fine houses like the Rectory and Pax Hall. The Bissell family also had a nice house near the park.

We used to play games in Bissell Street of the sort modern children wouldn't know about - 'Top and Whip', 'Five Stones, 'Hopscotch' and skipping games. We could sometimes be mischievous too, knocking on doors and running away, tying two doorknobs together and that sort of thing. I remember an overseas boy at Bourne College complaining to my mother that we were always calling him names and teasing him. He suddenly appeared at the open kitchen window as she was peeling the potatoes. She was quite startled. His name was Vandepoi. My mother apologised and had a word with us about it.

I went to Quinton CE School when Mr Burns was the head. We called him 'Daddy' Burns. I got sent to him for the cane once, but when I held out my hand he relented and sent me off with a warning. He was very nice; so was Mr Strudwick, another teacher. There was a system of 'standards' at the time. In other words you worked at the level you had attained, regardless of age. The standard you were in depended entirely on your progress. There were about seven standards. There were no school dinners. You went home for your dinner in those days.

I used to enjoy being sent to ring the school bell to start the day. I used to add a few extra rings so that latecomers didn't get into trouble!

The Slyng was a wide pathway off the main road next to Danks's beautiful house where the ABC cinema now stands. Every year the Danks family sent an invitation to the school for children to come to The Slyng where we could collect apples, pears and cauliflowers, all free and just picked, to take home with us. Opposite the churchyard on the Hagley Road was the field where the village football club played. They ran two teams. My brother Fred used play for them. Because the supporters knew who his father was, they used to shout 'Go on, fireman!'

Two other players whose names I remember were Joe Parkes and Billy Mullett. When they kicked the ball out of the ground onto the Hagley Road, I used to scramble under the hedge to get it and throw it back. Coming from a family of 6 girls and two boys I suppose I was a bit of a tomboy! They were a good team and well supported with several dozen villagers - mostly youngsters - cheering them on.

Fred later 'Joined the Royal Navy and served in the Second World War, but he couldn't swim. He claimed they tried to make him swim by throwing him into the sea with a rope attached, but it didn't work.

I remember some of the shops such as Badger's ironmongers where Scriven's Estate Agents now stands, Jordan's cakeshop on the Midland Bank site and Hadley's baker's shop in Bissell Street where they made lovely crusty cottage loaves. The Deeleys were still running the Post Office. There was a public telephone just inside.

Also in Bissell Street was Mr Dugmore's factory where I had my first job at fourteen. I earned ten shillings a week. They specialised in enamelling work and chainmaking. The chains were for hanging chandeliers. About 25 people were employed at the firm.

There was a garden nursery - a sort of early garden centre where they sold some good quality plants. It had two or three large greenhouses. This too was in Bissell Street.

Mr Guest was the village postman. He was the father of the Guest sisters who ran the laundry. He had a big white beard like Father Christmas.

When we moved to the 'outdoor', we kept pigs and chickens at the back. We had two horses stabled there as well. One belonged to Charlie Tustin who lived in Harborne but was a sweet factor in Halesowen. The other belonged to the daughter of Dr. Mather, a local GP. He was a family friend and sometimes borrowed my father's gun for shooting trips. It was a double-barrelled shotgun which he treasured as a present from George Bellhouse, a well-known jockey at the time. I have no recollection of my father using it, though some other Quintonians were known to go out shooting in the surrounding countryside.

Our sow once had too many piglets to cope with. We had to bottle-feed two of them in the kitchen. When the pigs had to be killed, a slaughterman from Beech Lanes would come to do the job. It used to make my mother cry. Much of the social life centred on the Scout Hut in Stoney Lane. You could have a go on the shooting range or play billiards. They held dances there too.

One vivid memory of mine was the day the Germans made a raid on the Birmetals factory. It was 14 May 1941, the day my son Barrington was born. Together with the baby and my three year old daughter Margaret I took to the shelter at the back of the house. We huddled there as the bombers flew over. We came to no harm-and neither did the Birmetals factory.

QLHS 2000

Click here to go back to the Oracle page.