QLHS Newsletter

Letters and Emails to the Editor pre-2002

Dear Mr Taylor,

I am enclosing a copy of an indenture dated 31 January 1800 between the Church Warden and the Overseers of the poor for the Parish of Harborne and Joseph PARSONS, a lapidary of the Beechlane in the Parish of Hales Owen.

It is possible that this Joseph Parsons is my Great(x4) grandfather who died in Beech Lane and was buried at Hales Owen on 30 September 1835. My researches indicate that whilst the majority of christenings, marriages and burials took place in Hales Owen, from the early 18th century onwards the family was living in the Warley Wigorn/Ridgacre area. Several of the entries in the Parish Registers actually make reference to Beech Lane.

Would it be possible to publish a request in the QLHS? Asking if any member has any knowledge of this family? I am particularly keen to discover if there are any relevant directories, tithe maps or manorial records.

Yours sincerely,

Colin Beet(Member 97), 12 Winbrook Fold, Winfrith Newburgh, Dorchester, Dorset, DT2 8LR.

Can anyone help Colin? Below is a copy of the document, be it very small, if there is anyone who would like a larger copy, then please do contact me or have a word at the next meeting.

Below is a letter to the Editor of a local newspaper, replying to an article on Quinton and Warley by Miss Heather Higgins in 1958 - The significance for the “Oracle” is the name of the person replying:-

Sir-It appears to me that Miss Higgin’s interviews were largely confined to newcomers to the district ~ “fresh-ketched ‘uns” as they were called in Quinton in the early days of development.

My personal association with Quinton began in 1916, at the age of two, and continues up to the present time, although I am now living outside the boundary of Birmingham and Oldbury. My mother-except for a brief sojourn in Bearwood-has lived in Quinton and Warley all her life. Her mother and grandmother also spent practically all their lives in the district.

Many of my parents’ friends-all around the age of 65 to 75-were born, bred and married in the district. Many of my friends were also born in Quinton, and in several instances are still living in the houses in which they were born. I admit that the new Quinton is a confusing place, but the past still exists if you know where to seek it.

The district is steeped in local history, and the older inhabitants can tell many tales of horse buses, bygone personalities and so on, as well as recalling the days when Warley Hall (Abbey to you) and Lightwoods Park were private residences. As a point of interest my mother spent much of her childhood in various lodges attached to Warley hall. I myself- and at the age of 44 can hardly be described as a greybeard - can remember the days of field, farms, brooks and cottages before the building development obliterated the country aspect.

Of course, much of what is Quinton today was not so called in those days. Hagley Road West was known as Beech Lanes from the Kings Head to approximately birch Road. The area round the Holly Bush was The Hawthorns. Quinton has in some way mysteriously extended its boundaries. Much of the area round Harborne and California was not considered to be in Quinton, although it is today part of this unidentifiable conurbation. (I have even seen Mucklow Hill described as being in Quinton, but I think that this geographical conjuring emanates from estate agents who imagine-erroneously-Quinton as being a more desirable residential area than Halesowen).

It may surprise you to know that the old original, genuine, dyed-in-the-wool Quintonian is not a “Brummie and does not consider himself as such, even today. His accent is very similar to that of the Halesowen folk, which is usually-and wrongly-referred to as Black Country.

This accent, however, is rapidly disappearing from Quinton as the older inhabitants disappear from the scene. This difference in outlook and environment is probably the reason why many of the older people, having 50 or more years’ residence behind them, find it difficult to associate themselves with any other form of community life.

They are aware that life (and Birmingham) are both progressing (?), but they still remember nostalgically the old village days and wonder why their Quinton has been submerged in a welter of bricks, stones and concrete. If they have ever read Francis Brett Young they will agree with his references to “the debauched village of Tilton.”

So, Miss Higgins, if you want to find the last remnant of local colour and history, keep away from the new housing estates. Concentrate, rather, on the older houses and cottages, more of which remain than you possibly realise.

Hubert Charles Johnston, 69 Greenhill Road, Blackheath.

Editor’s comment-I am reliably informed that this is a member of the Johnson family that used to live in and around Birch Road, Quinton in the early days.

Dear Mr Taylor,

Thank you for your letter, I am not surprised you were confused. The land you asked about was all gardens, which backed on to the park and Meadow Road. The ground and Inglenook Cottage belonged to the New Inns (Mitchells & Butlers Brewery), I can’t quite remember but I think the rent was paid to them. When the pub was closed and Mr Sprayson bought the house and cottage, my sisters paid the rent to him. When he died, both properties were sold, but Mr Sprayson had stated in his will that my sister should be allowed to stay in the cottage until her death. After my sister died Mrs Sprayson sold the cottage.

Some time after we were visiting my brother, he enquired, “ would you like to be nosey and go and see what has happened to the cottage?” The two men who had bought the cottage spotted us looking around and they offered to show us the garden, which they had changed quite a lot. They took us into the cottage and asked a lot of questions about the place, such as, “why there were hooks on the ceiling?” We explained they were to hang the sides of bacon (Mr Yates in High Street used to keep pigs, and he always gave Mother the bacon, always as a gift).

The field you mentioned at the back of the property belonged to a farmer, can’t recall his name, but we had great fun at hay making time. We used to make hay houses, and our Moms would give us a bottle of water and some sandwiches, we would play for hours and then have a hay fight. It was a sad day when the farmer came to collect his hay, but we used to get a ride on the wagon, you could always rely on the sun shining in those days.

The bowling green was opposite the New Inns; I believe it was very near where the piece of land is now by the gulley called ‘The Green’.

I was very interested in the reminiscences of Gladys Jones and all she says would easily fit a description I could give. The last paragraph about the land mine dropped in the ‘Men’s Home’ grounds. We had a shelter in the garden, when the sirens went, I gathered my mother and carried her, accompanied by my sister, to the shelter. There were three bunks, complete with candles, and we always took something to eat. My husband made a little metal chimney, through the top so we could get air, we slept all night and knew nothing of the evacuation until the warden came next morning. He apologised, he said he didn’t know that the cottage was there until the neighbours told him. Yes, Coventry was certainly burning, but there was another land mine down Watery Lane, which was left unexploded, I believe it went off possibly about a week later. I came home from work in the centre of Birmingham, to find my Mother terribly shaken. She liked a rest on the sofa in the afternoon, the mine had exploded and the blast had sent her to the other side of the room. I am sure that this caused her death a few months later. The windows in the New Inns were blown out- the old pub was used by the council as a storage depot for gas masks.

I must close now as my fingers are tired, if I think of anything else I will write again.

Yours sincerely,

Margaret Bate, Deganwy, North Wales.

ED. Thank you once again Margaret for these lovely memories, I hope that you will stir a few more of our members to put pen to paper.

Dear sir

We would all like to think that we have a Roman Fort in our garden, but I have something equally interesting and intriguing about which I know little, other than its physical presence and its legal presence noted in the deeds of the property.

From the junction of Oak Tree Crescent with Gower Road, a ridge may be observed in the back gardens of the houses fronting Gower Road between the Oak Tree Crescent and Shenstone Valley Road, with an alignment directed towards the junction of Alder Grove and Shenstone Valley Road. The alignment is then directed along the cul-de-sac end of Shenstone Valley Road, across the wasteland at the rear of the factory.

This, according to a former resident who was familiar with the area before the houses were built (a Mrs Taylor), was POT LANE and as far as she could recall, bearing in mind this conversation occurred some years ago the general direction was towards Pottery Farm on Mucklow Hill.

If this was so, then the public footpath and ancient hedgerow on the right-hand side represent the alignment. There is some evidence of a ditch which was more pronounced when a hawthorn hedge marked the then allotment boundary, instead of the palisade fence which now obscures the housing estate.

Near to Belle Vue the path split with a pedestrian path carrying on, as now, to the top of the escarpment overlooking the Leasowes and then downhill to Mucklow Hill. Pot Lane now takes up a new alignment diverting to the right towards Pottery Farm.

Pot Lane (if that were its name), appears to have passed directly through Pottery Farm. This is evidenced by a substantial Holloway, which is best viewed from the path leaving Mucklow Hill, adjacent to the Farm Buildings, at the point where it also joins another ancient highway. The new B & Q Store may trace this itself from its Leasowes Lane juncture with Manor Lane, through the Leasowes, leaving the park through Leafy Lane and crossing Mucklow Hill. Then emerging on Gorsty Hill near to the Station Road Junction.

It is conjectural but in all probability, the road through the Leasowes was a main thoroughfare between Moor Street and Old Hill. Its termination seems to be, either at the junction of Waterfall Lane and Station Road, or further along Station Road, where it merges with Halesowen Road at Old Hill.

It is interesting to note, that radiating out from the golf house are prominent ridge and furrow, where the semi circular road appears to form a boundary. Certainly the alignment of the road takes account of the topography, aiming for the easier route across the stream.

Under the right conditions (a) a light covering of snow and (b) a clear Autumnal moonlight, The Leasowes reveals much of its history before Shenstone in the form of ridge and furrow, and ancient boundary outlines Shenstone’s major efforts seems to have been confined to the areas surrounding the house, the stream valleys and the escarpment overlooking the Leasowes.

Returning to Pot Lane in Gower Road, I excavated the section in my garden in the late seventies. I discovered what had been a well-metalled road with the remains of an ash and clinker surface. Coal fragments were abundant, as were modern pottery shards (Victorian/Edwardian) and the fragments of early pop bottles. The road rose from 12 to 18 inches in 25 feet across the garden, and appeared to be approximately 18ft wide. The underlying stratum was compacted almost to a consistency of soft sandstone.

Finally, a thought to stir the historian’s grey matter. Was Pot Lane a means of avoiding the Toll at Quinton? Or was it the remnants of an older network directed towards Tennal and Harborne? Certainly older maps seem to suggest an alignment of footpaths and hedgerows.

Rod Homer, Halesowen, West Midlands

I was delighted to find the Quinton History Society web site. I, aged five, moved with my parents to Quinton in 1939; my father having purchased a brand-new house in Ridgacre Lane, price £ 345.00. (In fact, I still have the mortgage book). I lived there until my marriage in 1958 and my parents continued until their deaths in 1985.

My school days started at Woodhouse Road School and then when Four Dwellings opened I, and my friend Dorothy Sherwood, who lived in Ridgacre Road, started the first day it opened. I remember Bryan Palser; perhaps he may remember me, Eileen Smith. I also remember the shops opening in Ridgacre Lane; first, the newsagent, Tom Walker with his little wooden hut, and then followed the Outdoor, Walkers Newsagents, Morris the Butchers, Greengrocers (?). Armeshaw the Grocers, (Jean the attractive girl behind the counter was courting the local milkman named Jeff who worked at Merris Farm, not far from Four Dwellings), then the Barbers (?), then Mrs. Daniels the Wool shop. Our house was 4-doors away from her. From the front window, we had green fields with horses grazing, but these were to suffer a tragic accident when they were hit by bombs and had to be destroyed. I can remember, to this day, how I felt the loss of these lovely friends I used to watch on my way to Four Dwellings.

During the war we had many bombers going over and I believe my father said he thought they were after Birmetals Ltd; in fact, a bomber came down at the bottom of Ridgacre Lane, near the bank which we used to walk over to school, and one night, when home on leave from the R.A.F., my father and his neighbour, Tom Sanders, were doing a spot of "firewatching" and saw something burning by a gate leading to a house and when they pulled it away, it was the pilot of this crashed German bomber! Also one night, also firewatching, they were in the doorway of Mrs. Daniels wool shop, when silently a bomb on the end of a parachute glided by and was slowly coming towards the house where my mother and I were sleeping in our Anderson Air Raid Shelter few feet away; they both said afterwards " Now we know what it means to be frozen from fear”. Nothing they could do but stand there, not being able to come and warn not only us, but other families too. Then suddenly, a gust of wind came and took the parachute way back up and over towards the fields! What a relief! I also recollect a crater caused by a bomb near the school and a plane crash landed on the Hagley Road near the "Odeon Warley". Remembering the Anderson Shelter, I used to love sleeping in them, even though the reason was not so lovely!

On the fields in front of our house, they eventually built a Bus Dept, which was hideous, but we got used to it and then we benefited as the Bus No. 3A, Birmingham to Quinton was extended from Ridgacre Road Terminus to pass our house and terminate at Quinton Road West. I think of the times during the summer holidays when my pals and I used to walk over to Watery Lane, complete with our bottle of "Masons" Pop and "Smiths "Crisps and have ourselves a picnic; swinging on ropes from branches of trees. watching the clouds chase each other over a lovely blue sky; then the winter of 1947, when everything froze up. The school remained open for those brave enough to venture out. Most of us had to go; with our fathers in the services and our mothers working (mine worked at Smiths Bros on the Hagley Road) there was no one to keep an eye on us! In fact, the schools remained open all through School holidays, and we loved it, nothing but games, games and more games!

During the war and for sometime after, the local buses were parked at night on the slip road adjacent to Ridgacre Road. this was not made into a dual carriageway until years later... and at night, we would slip the leather rope back on the platform and play to our hearts content. picking up used bus tickets and making them into a concertina and shouting "tickets please". Sometimes, an Inspector would make a visit and we would all hide, not very successfully, and then we would be told off in no uncertain terms. "Don't come here again", but we did! It was all good clean fun and and we never did any harm. In fact, I don't think children of today could do what we got up to in Quinton in the 40s and early 50s. Like going over fields with nothing to fear but stinging nettles, going to the Odeon Warley on a Saturday morning and after seeing Jonny Mackbrown and Roy Rogers shoot the baddies, we all trooped to the "Creamery" cake shop at top of Hagley Road, pick the biggest cream cake and" whoopee-ing it up" on the central reservation, slapping our backsides and shouting "ride em cowboy" all the way down to the "Holly Bush" and then becoming the modicum of politeness in case our mothers were shopping at the Holly Bush shops: if they weren't, a neighbour would usually report us. Happy Days!”

Keep up the good work, its lovely to hear about good old Quinton from where I now live in Kingswinford. When young I used to come to Kingswinford with an Aunt on the 140 Dudley Bus from the Holly Bush to have a DAY OUT at the "Kingfisher Country Club": little realising that I would one day be living almost on its door-step. The reason being Quinton house prices in 1958, the year of our marriage, were around £3500.0.0. which we couldn't afford. So we went farther afield, and bought a bungalow in Kingswinford for £2150.0.0. and in which we still live.....Incidentally, we got married at Christ Church, Quinton, the Rev.F.E.Compton officiated and had our reception at the "Kings Highway". (My father, for many years, affectionately grumbled " why we couldn't have walked over the zebra crossing from the church to the "Kings Highway" to save him some money!)...Incidentally, if this is published on the web site I hope some of my old friends are looking in....Gill Powell, Dorothy Sherwood, and Doreen Pearsall.

Best wishes to you all!

Eileen Collins (nee Smith)

Ed’s comment-What lovely reminiscences from a lady who is not yet a member but who found us on our web site-www.qlhs.org.uk. If anyone remembers Eileen and would like to get in touch then please ring me, and I will do my Cilla Black.

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