Police granted dispersal order in Blakenall Heath and Leamore

Blakenall Dispersal Order Map courtesy West Midlands Police.

Officers from the Blakenall neighbourhood policing team have been granted a dispersal order to help tackle anti-social behaviour in and around the area of Blakenall Heath and Leamore indicated on the map shown above.

The order gives officers the power to move groups of two or more people suspected of causing anti-social behaviour from within the strictly defined area.

Officers also have the power to return anybody under the age of 16 to their home address between the hours of 9pm and 6am.

The order, which has been granted in partnership with Walsall Council, will run for five months from Friday 9 November 2012 until Monday 8 April 2013.

Police applied for the dispersal order after receiving complaints from residents concerning anti-social behaviour (ASB).

Officers hope to make the area a better to live by significantly reducing ASB during the coming months and will be patrolling the area to ensure the order is obeyed.

Sergeant Jim Nixon, responsible for policing in Blakenall Heath, said:

“My officers will be paying particular attention to hotspot locations identified by the community within the dispersal area and we will be looking to take further action against those who are repeatedly found to be flouting the order.

“We are committed to reducing anti-social behaviour and hope that this will make a real difference to local people, their neighbours and the wider community.”

Anybody with concerns about anti-social behaviour in the area should contact their local neighbourhood team on 101.

Things that go bump in the Borough…

The 17th century White Hart pub, Caldmore, Walsall, c1896 

Over the centuries, creepy tales of ghosts and ghouls, legends of mystery and imagination, and fragments of ancient folklore become inextricably intertwined with the history of every town, and whatever you believe about the origins of ghost stories, these old legends are firm favourites with those who like to tell tall tales by the fireside, ale in hand, long into the night.

There are a few particularly memorable local stories of the supernatural, perhaps the most popular of which relate to The White Hart.  The legendary home of the ‘Caldmore Ghost’ is a very old and picturesque house, later used as a pub, located on Caldmore Green, just outside Walsall town centre.

Now wonderfully restored for shared use, The White Hart is thought to date back to the second half of the seventeenth century, and was probably built by George Hawe (died 1679).  This remarkable listed building is the object of great local affection, despite the dark legends associated with it.  Since it was built it has gathered around it a shroud of many chilling stories, which may or may not be old wives tales.

The Caldmore 'Hand of Glory'.

In the latter part of the nineteenth century The White Hart was renovated, and, during the work, a child’s arm was found hidden in an attic chimney. The arm has become known as the ‘Hand of Glory’, traditionally a hand cut from a hanged felon and dried in the prescribed manner.  Then, either by lighting the fingers themselves or using the hand as a candle holder, the Hand was supposed to stupefy any person seeing it, thus enabling a burglar to ransack a house without being caught.  It was generally believed that the flames could not be blown out by any ordinary person and that milk was the only liquid able to extinguish the candle.

This grisly object, now on display in Walsall Museum, seems to be a medical specimen, dissected by a surgeon and injected with formalin to preserve it.  It certainly does not date from the time when the house was first built.  However, popular legend refuses to accept such a dull solution.

There are many other tales of haunted happenings, into modern times, and The White Hart has become known as the home of ‘The Caldmore Ghost’.  I present here for your interest a photograph taken in 1925 of the Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Clarke, allegedly ‘taking the pulse’ of this legendary spectre.

Dr. Clarke 'taking the pulse' of the Caldmore Ghost in 1925. (Walsall LHC)

Other subjects of spooky speculation around the Borough include, of course, the old vicarage of St. George’s Church on Darlaston Green, the haunted Area Dispatch Office at Walsall Bus Depot, the spirited old lady at the Manor Arms in Rushall, the spectral West Highland terrier of Sutton Road, and the Ghost Train of the Leighs Wood Line at Shelfield!

St George's Church, Darlaston, c1970. (Alan Price)

Bloxwich is also the haunt of many a terrifying tale, and I well remember in my youth being told of the ghostly Flying Nun of Wallington Heath, who had supposedly committed suicide at the Convent there.

The former King's Arms, Wallington Heath, Bloxwich, early 1900s. (Walsall LHC)

This story may derive from the alleged haunting of the Old Kings Arms, a former coaching inn on the site which later became the convent of St. Paul of Chartres, by the ghost of a young woman who was murdered at the inn. There are still a few older people in the neighbourhood who can remember their parents hurrying past the spot or refusing to venture that way at night.

The former 1874 Bloxwich Police Station and Library, 2010. (Stuart Williams)

Then of course there are more recent reports of footsteps upstairs in The Spring Cottage pub, Elmore Green Road, Bloxwich – or the beer-chucking ghost of the Memorial Club in Harrison Street!  Of course, not many people know that the old part of the ‘Memo’ is Bloxwich’s first Branch Library, and second Police Station, in use from 1874.  The old house’s former cellar was used as a gaol cell, as the rusted hinges down there testify.  Is a former prisoner or spectral librarian causing a ruckus? Who knows…

Supernatural goings-on in Bloxwich have not been limited to reports of ghosts, though.

The Old Bull's Head and Wishing Tree, Park Rd, Bloxwich, 10 June 1927. (Billy Meikle)

More than once I have referred to the story of the Bloxwich Wishing Tree which once stood near the old Bull’s Head pub in Park Road. 

This time I’ll conclude by returning to that story by quoting a spooky poem from the book ‘Ghosts & the Folklore Around Barr Beacon’ by Andrew Perrins, sadly now out of print:

Ballad of the Wishin’ Bush

Sum airty years ago in Bloxidge town,

A tale told there is so well known;

About a quaint ode wishin’ tree,

By th’ Bull’s Yed for all to see.

Now a local blade, he did enjoy,

A pint or two upon the sly,

In that said pub within th’ town,

Those quarts ov ale, ‘e drunk ‘em down.

Now ‘is wife she was so much vexed,

In fact, she was a touch perplexed,

To know ‘er bloke went astray,

Drinkin’ each nite an’ ev’ry day.

She med a wish so th’ tree would fall

Upon ‘er spouse to stop ‘im all,

From a drinkin’ in that wretched pub,

A curse she uttered upon the shrub.

But th’ tree, it missed an’ ‘it th’ inn

Uzby escaped by th’ thick ov ‘iz skin,

Now th’ wife, she took it all to ‘art,

An’ on that day she did depart.

‘Em say th’ bush’s growin’ still,

So do mek a wish if yoh will!

Whether all of these tales are the result of ghostly materialisations or are due to the effects of some other kind of spirits, who can say?  I for one keep an open mind, especially at Hallowe’en…

Stuart Williams

(Previously published in ‘The Borough Blog’)

Writers’ Circle award presented to Bloxwich Telegraph editor

Barbara Carr presents the Norrey Ford Cup to Stuart Williams.

On Thursday 11 October, Walsall Writers’ Circle awarded their prestigious Norrey Ford Cup to member Stuart Williams for his writing over the last year.

A noted photographer and regular contributor to the local newspapers for more than a decade with his articles of historic interest, Stuart has also written several local history books, the latest of which is due for publication in time for Christmas this year, as well as finding fame on online sites with his short stories and as the editor of the popular Bloxwich Telegraph website.

Stuart is also working on an anthology of ‘steampunk’ science fiction stories for digital publication early in the new year.

In a press release from the Circle, its Chair Margaret Woods said about the award:

“The Norrey Ford Cup is a very special award given annually at The Walsall Writers’ Circle.  A well-known Walsall writer of novels, short stories and articles and one time chairman of The Romantic Novelists Association, Norrey started the Walsall Circle in order to encourage local would-be writers. Her work bore much fruit.

“Several novelists developed with her help as well as short story writers; Radio items and article writers of various kinds also found success.  Norrey gave the cup to be awarded to the member who achieved the most success during a twelve month period with the accent on new writers. Sadly, Norrey is no longer with us but her memory continues as her influence is still felt.”

Stuart Williams said in response to the award:

“It’s a great honour to receive this solid silver cup from the Circle, and I thank them for this surprise award.  It means a lot to be appreciated by fellow writers, and the Norrey Ford Cup has a lot of history behind it. I have given it pride of place in my study where most of my writing and editing is done.”

The cup was presented to Stuart by Barbara Carr (pictured, above), herself a prolific novelist and writer for many years.  It will be held by Stuart for twelve months.

It was also at this meeting that the Circle said its farewell to Park Hall School, which has hosted the Circle for around 30 years.  The members are looking forward to a new venue in the Broadway North Centre on Broadway North, Walsall where there is a larger room that will cater for its growing numbers.

The first meeting to be held in the Broadway North Centre is on 8 November when speaker Mary Bodfish will be providing a talk entitled, “As Easy as ABC; how our alphabet developed”.  The meeting starts at 7.30 pm.

For more information visit walsallwriterscircle.webs.com or email the Secretary, Alison Reed, on walsall.writerscircle@hotmail.co.uk

The Circle also has a Facebook page: Writers’ Circle Facebook

and can be followed on Twitter:  https://twitter.com/WalsallWriters

Press release and picture courtesy of Walsall Writers’ Circle.

Walsall Labour councillors demand budget details

Labour Party Logo

Local Labour Party councillors are calling for Walsall Council’s coalition cabinet to spell out the consequences of the biggest round of cuts in the borough’s history. The call comes as the council announced a consultation on government plans to cut £70 million over four years from Walsall Council’s budget which will lead to the dismemberment of frontline services, according to a Walsall Council Labour Group press release.

Services people rely on a daily basis from parks to public toilets, from education to social care, are facing cutbacks in a round of swingeing cuts which will take £13 million out of council services next year alone, say the group.

Responding to the proposed budget by the council’s Conservative/ Lib Dem coalition cabinet Labour councillors are warning that everyone living in Walsall will be affected by the wholesale cutbacks.

Leader of the Council’s Labour Group, Councillor Tim Oliver, said:

“We fear that over the next four years whole departments will effectively cease to function.

“Previously, the Conservatives and their Lib Dem partners have claimed that ‘savings’ can be made by cuts in back room operations but a quick look at these proposals shows that is a fallacy and frontline services the people of Walsall rely on will disappear.

What we are seeing here is the coalition government forcing local councils to do their dirty work - and hoping that people will simply blame their local council rather than look at the disastrous economic policies which are putting us in this position in the first place.”

Labour say that so far the council has only explained in detail £2 million of its £13 million cuts and has failed to outline how services such as children’s centres will be affected. One of the largest cuts announced so far is £400,000 in parks and open spaces, which will see an end to weekend patrols, a reduction in the number of wardens and cuts in maintenance programmes.

Bloxwich West councillor Fred Westley says the borough’s parks and open spaces enhance community life and encourage children’s development while facilities like football pitches prompt healthy exercise:

“Over the years local people and council staff have worked hard to make places like King George V Playing Fields a safe area at the heart of community events like Bloxwich Carnival,” he said.

”The cuts in the maintenance programme will see it becoming run down while reductions in patrols and wardens are bound to see increases in anti-social behaviour and vandalism. These cuts will devastate community assets.”

Walsall Labour are demanding that the cabinet now publishes the full list of proposed cuts so residents can see the true cost of their policies.

For more information, contact Walsall Council Labour Group.

Walsall Mayor encourages support for Poppy Appeal

Appeal poppies - picture courtesy of The Royal British Legion.

In advance of this year’s Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday commemorations, Walsall’s Mayor is encouraging the borough’s residents, shoppers, businesses and schoolchildren to show their support for this year’s Poppy Appeal.

Councillor Dennis Anson has indicated that poppies are now on sale at Walsall Council House as well as a host of other council premises.

He said:

“As an ex-RAF serviceman I appreciate the fantastic work that is being done by the Royal British Legion to support those involved in conflicts and their families.

“I am confident that Walsall will rise to the fundraising challenge again in 2012 while helping to raise awareness of the Poppy Appeal which is so very important.”

The Poppy Appeal, which is run annually by the Royal British Legion, raised in excess of £39.5m nationally in 2011.

This year’s Poppy Appeal will again focus on support for the Afghanistan generation of the Armed Forces family.

Since 2003 the Legion has helped more than ten thousand serving, ex-Service and family members who have experience of the Afghan and Iraq conflicts.

The Mayor added:

“There is also a drive to attract new Poppy Appeal volunteers and I would urge willing helpers to put themselves forward to support the cause.”

Anyone aged over 16 who would like to volunteer can contact 0800 085 5924.

Poppies will also be found on sale by official collectors in various locations across the borough, and in participating shops etc.

The Bloxwich Telegraph will be covering Remembrance Sunday in Bloxwich as usual this year.

For more information about the Poppy Appeal and the Royal British Legion follow this link.

Leamore college shortlisted for national award

WACC logo

Leamore’s popular adult education institution, Walsall Adult & Community College, will find out whether it will receive another accolade next week after being shortlisted for a national award.

The college, which provides hundreds of learning opportunities to over 8,000 students each year, is one of sixty-nine organisations that have been nominated for a Green Gown Award 2012 by The Environment Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC).

Now in their eighth year, the Green Gown Awards recognise the exceptional sustainability initiatives being undertaken by universities and colleges in the UK.

This year’s ceremony will take place on Monday 5 November 2012 at The Great Hall, University of Birmingham.

WACC has been shortlisted alongside Derbyshire Adult Education Service, Jewel & Esk College and Circus Space for its ongoing sustainability initiatives.

Last June the college fought off competition from larger organisations and businesses to triumph at the West Midlands START Awards 2011, sponsored by the Prince’s Trust Business in the Community.

It is looking to build on its success by gaining the Learning In Future Environments Index (LiFE) Accreditation with the EAUC.

Find out more about WACC via this link.

Fang-tastic theatre dinner now booking for Halloween!

Countess Dracula dines out...

Fancy a bite out this Halloween?

Fearful favourites Victorian specialist theatre company “Don’t Go into the Cellar!” are bringing a Halloween horror show that’s good enough to eat to The Old Joint Stock Theatre in Birmingham this October 31st.

Fright Bites will be hosted by Countess Dracula, and is a theatre-dinner event where audiences can enjoy some frighteningly good theatre in-between a three-course meal.

The intimate venue is purportedly haunted too, but company director Rachel Green hopes the pub’s resident ghost won’t be putting in an appearance. “Although if he does,” Rachel says, “I’m sure we could make him a plate of ghoul-ash, and they serve spirits downstairs in the bar!”

Tickets for this frightfully unique evening cabaret and dinner evening are available now by contacting The Old Joint Stock Theatre on 0121 200 0946 or online: www.oldjointstocktheatre.co.uk

Don’t miss this truly fang-tastic event!

The acclaimed theatre troupe will return to the Old Joint Stock in time for Christmas on December 17th with an Edwardian music hall variety show entitled A Very Marie Xmas! The evening will be hosted by the “Queen of the Music Halls”, Marie Lloyd, and she will be joined by a glittering array of some of the era’s best-known singers and comedians – or at least, performers playing them!

Don’t Go Into The Cellar specializes in Victorian and Edwardian chillers, Sherlock Holmes adventures and music hall variety shows. As Halloween approaches, the company is set to perform a slew of different shows across the Midlands region.

Further details of all other shows around Halloween and beyond can be found on the theatre company’s website, www.dontgointothecellar.com or by contacting Company Director Rachel Green on 0777 2 572 060. Alternatively, please email thebestcellar@gmail.com

Rock Halloween in Bloxwich with Red Venice this Saturday!

Red Venice

Horribly good heavy rock and metal covers band Red Venice will be blowing the roof off in Halloween style at Bookmark Bloxwich Theatre this Saturday 27 October.

And gig-goers are welcome to turn up turned out dressed in their spooky best for the frighteningly fantastic rock-fest at the popular venue in Elmore Row, Bloxwich.

The band which launched the return of live music to the former Bloxwich Library Theatre cover the greatest rock anthems from Journey, Deep Purple, Ozzy Osbourne, Rainbow, Whitesnake, Cream and many more!

So with tickets costing just £5, why not celebrate All Hallows Eve and rock the night away?

Doors open 7.30pm, and the show starts at 8.00pm.  There will be a bar.

Telephone Bloxwich Library on 01922 655900 to book tickets now!

Bookmark Bloxwich Theatre is managed by Bloxwich Library Forum in partnership with Bloxwich Library.