Category Archives: Walsall Borough

toothache

Urgent Dental Treatment over Christmas

toothache

Residents in Walsall who do not have a regular NHS dentist are being reminded where to go if they need urgent dental treatment over the festive period.

The Dental Access Centre, which is based in Blakenall Village Centre, will be open between 8.30am and 12 noon on weekends and bank holidays including Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Years Day. It will offer appointments to NHS patients who require urgent  dental treatment for pain or swelling.

Vikki Tolley, Oral Health Coordinator for NHS Walsall, said:

“With Christmas just around the corner everyone is ready and geared up for the festivities to get underway. Constant snacking, drinking and eating sugary foods and drinks can make the holiday period a miserable time for teeth.

“NHS Walsall just want to remind people to think about their teeth and continue to look after them like you would do all year round. However if you do find your teeth are causing you pain or swelling then there are services available to help you.”

For help and advice or to book an appointment during a weekend or bank holiday contact the Dental Access Centre on 07976 246 404.

The standard NHS urgent fee of £17.50 applies unless you are entitled to free NHS dental treatment.

Stuart Williams with the new book Reflections of Old Walsall

Reflections of Old Walsall launches on Thursday!

Stuart Williams with the new book Reflections of Old Walsall

Bloxwich Telegraph editor Stuart Williams’ latest book for Walsall Local History Centre has just been published and will be on sale from this week – with a special launch event taking place at Walsall Museum on Thursday 6th December (details below), and just in time for Christmas.

Reflections of Old Walsall  – subtitled ‘Local history in and around Walsall Metropolitan Borough’ – includes diverse subjects from local heroes like Walsall’s greatest aviator Flt Lt Webster to coalman’s son and Bletchley Park code-breaker Harry Hinsley via spooks and spectres, the remarkable Highgate Windmill, Aldridge’s Naval VC, Bentley’s ‘Giant’s Causeway’, one of Queen Victoria’s greatest diplomats – from Birchills(!), the time Sherlock Holmes came to Walsall, Walsall’s electric trams which were “better than Blackpool” and Bloxwich’s war poet Harold Parry – plus many more!

In fact if you thought the story of old Walsall was just about the leather industry and Sister Dora, then you’re in for a few surprises with this book.  Even the essential Sister Dora article takes a very different track to the usual story…

Reflections of Old Walsall Book Cover
Reflections of Old Walsall Book Cover – click to enlarge.

The illustrated A5 format softback book, 72pp plus 4pp cover, is a compilation of the original, uncut texts of twenty of Stuart’s Local Heritage articles which were written on behalf of Walsall Local History Centre for his monthly feature in the Walsall Chronicle newspaper – a series which has run since 2001 and which was renamed Memory Lane at the end of 2011.

As such, the newspaper-published and edited versions of the articles are not only long out of print but were somewhat shorter than those in the book.  The articles in the new book also have their original titles, which were often changed by the Chronicle’s editors!

Each article as published now comprises 3-4 pages with 3 or 4 period photographs, so the book is ideal for dipping into, especially as the subjects focus on numerous surprising, quirky and often forgotten aspects of the area’s history and its people from ancient times to the 1970s.

The new book costs £6.99, and you may be interested to know that Stuart’s previous book for the Centre Billy Meikle’s Window on Walsall is also still available for £5.

The individual titles of the articles in Reflections of Old Walsall are:

  • A Bridge By Any Other Name
  • Bentley’s ‘Giant’s Causeway’
  • Things that Go Bump in the Borough…
  • From the Earth to the Moon – Highgate Windmill
  • From Red Books to the Red Planet – W. H. Robinson
  • One Man and His Books (to say nothing of the dog)
  • Remembering Aldridge’s Naval VC
  • Sister Dora and the Steam Engine
  • The Battle of Walsall
  • When Sherlock Holmes came to Walsall
  • Better than Blackpool: Walsall’s Victorian Tramways
  • An Englishman’s Castle: Council housing in Walsall
  • From Dixon of Dock Green to Gene Hunt
  • Flaming brilliant: Walsall Fire Brigade
  • From Guild Hall to Civic Centre
  • Going to the ‘flicks’ in ‘Sixties Walsall
  • From Borneo Street to the Stars
  • The Hinsley Enigma – Decoded
  • From Birchills to Beijing – Sir Harry S. Parkes
  • Remembering Harold Parry – Bloxwich War Poet

PUBLISHER’S DETAILS

‘Reflections of Old Walsall’ by Stuart Williams

Publisher: Walsall Local History Centre
ISBN: 978 1 907363 03 0

A5 format softback 72pp plus 4pp cover.
Retail price: £6.99.

BOOK LAUNCH AT WALSALL MUSEUM Thursday 6th December 2012

REFLECTIONS OF OLD WALSALL is being launched by Walsall Local History Centre with the kind assistance of Walsall Museum who are hosting the event in their Education Room on Thursday 6th December.

The launch will take place between 10am – 12 noon at Walsall Museum, 1st Floor, Central Library, Lichfield Street,  Walsall, WS1 1TR.  ADMISSION IS FREE.

The launch programme is as follows:

10am        Doors open.  Informal chance to speak to the author and view the book.

10.30am   Talk:  Reflections of Old Walsall.

11am         Book sales and signing.  Books cost £6.99.

11.30am    Videos and FREE refreshments.

12 noon  Close.

OUTLETS

After the launch, Reflections of Old Walsall will be available from Waterstone’s bookstore in Park Street, Walsall Museum, Walsall Leather Museum and of course direct from Walsall Local History Centre in Essex Street, Walsall, which will also operate a mail order service – telephone 01922 721305 for details.

Pelsall Ladies Choir

SSAFA forces charity Christmas concert this Saturday

Pelsall Ladies Choir (courtesy Gary Nicholls)

A hard-working charity which supports both current and former armed services personnel is all set to hold a festive fundraiser tomorrow (Saturday) and is inviting kind-hearted people to join them for an enjoyable night out.

The very active West Midlands North Branch (Walsall District) of the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA) Forces Help, the national charity supporting those who serve in our Armed Forces, those who used to serve, and their families, has organised a Charity Christmas Concert at St Bartholomew’s Church in Wednesbury on 1st December.

Featuring the talented and ever-popular Pelsall Ladies Choir (pictured above, courtesy Gary Nicholls), the musical evening is taking place at the historic church on Little Hill, Wednesbury.

The concert starts at 7.30pm – tickets cost just £5 and are still available on the door.

Roy Aldridge of SSAFA Forces Help Walsall said:

“Each year, SSAFA’s trained staff and network of 7,500 volunteers provide practical support and assistance to more than 50,000 people, from D-Day veterans to young soldiers wounded in Afghanistan.

“To do this we need to raise funds, and anyone attending our Charity Christmas Concert at St Bartholomew’s will have the pleasure not only of a very enjoyable start to the festive season but of knowing that they have contributed to important local work.”

If you are interested in helping to support our local branch of the charity, SSAFA FORCES Help – West Midlands North Branch (Walsall District) can also be contacted by post at the T A V R Centre, Gordon House,  Sutton Road, Walsall WS1 2PA or by telephone on 01922 722778 (not manned daily, please leave a message).

Those fallen leaves lie undisturbed now...

EDITORIAL Forever autumn: what future for our green spaces?

Bloxwich Park, our ancient village green: will those fallen leaves lie undisturbed in future?
Bloxwich Park, our ancient village green: will those fallen leaves lie undisturbed in future?

The summer sun is fading as the year grows old
And darker days are drawing near
The winter winds will be much colder
Now you’re not here

Today is Sunday, and the weather, surprisingly given conditions of late, was lovely, crisp, clear and sunny, with a sparkling light fit to shine deep into our souls. The grass was green, and the red-hot fallen leaves of autumn glowed bright in the wintry sunshine.  The great wheel of the seasons is turning, and we can see this all around us.  It is part of our lives, and our spirit.

What did you do?  Did you go for a walk?  Did you take the dog, your partner, the kids?  Where did you go?  A day out in the car?  Or a trip into our borough’s very own countryside havens?  A wander down to the local park, perhaps after church or a quiet drink in the pub?  Bloxwich is blessed with so many leafy parks and village greens, we are surrounded with trees and lawns, bushes and shrubs, little pools and hidden nature walks, with a once-bubbling fountain, quiet now but biding its time for the spring to come.

What a great day to be outdoors.  What was it like?  What did you see there?  Did you look around in wonder, stand silent amongst tall poplars, birch or oak?  Listen awe-struck to the birds, or stare out breathless across a trembling lake or pool?  Did you kick your way through the leaves, run along the footpaths and across the grass?  Did you feel the icy breeze sending a tingle up your spine?  Didn’t it feel good to be alive?

Come spring and summer, will you return to these green temples of peace for quiet contemplation, for family fun days and traditional carnivals, for childrens’ activities and adult education, for minibeast hunts and birdwatching walks, to spot bats or butterflies, to consider the rocks and waters beneath your feet or to watch the stirring of life on land, in the air and beneath the water of ponds and lakes?

Yet these havens of living beauty, and our access to them, cannot be taken for granted.  In dark times, we may have to fight for them, to raise our voices and our hands, to question and call to account those who set themselves far above us, as they see it.

What will you do if our parks and countryside spaces, the green and beating hearts of our towns and our borough’s hinterland, begin to suffer from neglect?  What if mowing the grass and managing the trees and heathland, trimming the bushes and husbanding the hedgerows, dredging the ponds and lakes, bending the willow fences and mending the stiles, picking the poop and clearing up all those glorious but now dark and rotting autumn leaves are all cut back, or heaven forbid, abandoned altogether?

What will you do if the opening hours are cut, the services dwindle, the helpful staff, the hard-working maintenance crews, the expert rangers, inspiring educators and supportive volunteers disappear, until one day you walk up to the gates of Bloxwich Park, or King George V Playing Fields, or Bloxwich Promenade Gardens, or any of the borough’s many parks and nature reserves large and small are locked and bolted, with barbed wire on the railings, the buildings boarded up, the play equipment rusting, the tools abandoned in the long grass and nothing stirring beyond the bars but the breeze, the peeling paint on burnt-out cars and the uneasy odour of fly-tipped rubbish.

What will you do?

Well you cannot say that you have not seen it coming.

What do you mean?  You cannot see it? You cannot hear it? You cannot read it? Are your eyes and ears open at all?  Things are falling apart all over England as a result of government cuts forced upon the people by those who think they are better than us, those with their millionaire’s hands jammed deep in our pockets but who care nothing for crumbling services, slashed jobs and ‘little’ lives that do not matter to them.

You see, it is happening already, even to the glorious legacy of our Victorian forebears who created the town and village parks for the good of the people, for their health and for their spiritual well-being.  And to the work of those who came after, inspired by the same ideals and a love of life and of knowledge to set up our nature reserves.  One day, perhaps, we may even see these places abandoned altogether, as part of “efficiency savings” or because “nobody cares”.

What will you do if the parks are built on and the nature reserves become a haven of a different kind – for drug addicts and burnt-out cars?  You may see no sign of this now, but those who do not care for the people will surely care even less for the green places that they love and need.

And swingeing green cuts are coming to Walsall.  Forced by massive and insupportable local authority budget cuts by national government, proposals already announced by the Council will lead to yet more staff cuts and “efficiency savings”.  We know what that means.  Oh, there are no parks closing now, nor are there plans to do so – but what of the future? A slippery slope is just that, and who will put on the brakes?

Thankfully, there are those arising who will stand against such decline and will fight for alternatives to cuts.  They are, appropriately, a “grass roots” group of Walsall countryside enthusiasts who can see clearly the dark clouds looming ahead for our local green spaces, because they are actively engaged in supporting them and the hard-working Walsall Council staff who do so much to make them accessible and enjoyable.

Beginning with the Friends of Park Lime Pits, they have not let the grass grow under their feet. Hearing of the cuts proposed, they stood up to be counted on Facebook, they made their opinions known through Twitter, they set up an official petition on the Walsall Council website, and organised not only a peaceful protest at the Council House but a meeting with senior Council officers, so that they could both better understand the reasoning behind the cuts – and make their voices heard.

Would that the people of this once-great nation would do as much.  Would that YOU would do as much.  Will you?

Much of what you really need to know is here, on the blog and other sites of this passionate group.  Make up your own mind on the issues and ask questions:

Save Walsall’s Green Spaces and Countryside Services

Sign the Petition against the cuts

Join the Facebook group

SHOW YOU CARE.

Before this all this is gone.  It has already begun…

Stuart Williams, Editor

Click on each photo below (and above) to see the full beauty of these precious places:

Abandoned Park Keeper's Lodge, Wiggin Avenue, King George V Playing Fields.
Abandoned Park Keeper’s Lodge, Wiggin Avenue, King George V Playing Fields.
King George V Playing Fields mean so much to so many.
King George V Playing Fields mean so much to so many.
Wallington Heath Pool - an 18th century stagecoach halt saved from weed and neglect by parks staff.
Wallington Heath Pool – an 18th century stagecoach halt saved from weed and neglect by parks staff.
History and natural beauty come together at Bloxwich Promenade Gardens on the High Street.
History and natural beauty come together at Bloxwich Promenade Gardens on the High Street.
Not just a patch of grass - a place of life and heritage on Elmore Green since ancient times..
Not just a patch of grass – a place of life and heritage on Elmore Green since ancient times..

Forever Autumn

(from Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds)

The summer sun is fading as the year grows old
And darker days are drawing near
The winter winds will be much colder
Now you’re not here

I WATCH the birds fly south across the Autumn sky
And one by one they DISAPPEAR
I wish that I was flying WITH them
Now you’re not here

Like the SUN through the trees you came to love me
Like a leaf on the breeze you blew away

Through Autumn’s golden gown we used to kick our way
You always loved this time of year
Those fallen leaves lie undisturbed now
Cause you’re not here

Like the SUN through the trees you came to love me
Like a leaf on the breeze you blew away

A gentle rain falls softly on my weary eyes
As if to hide a lonely tear
My life will be forever Autumn
Cause you’re not here

Cause you’re not here

Cause you’re not here…

Save Walsall's Green Spaces protestors at Walsall Council House.

Countryside cuts protesters lobby Walsall Council meeting

Save Walsall's Green Spaces protesters at Walsall Council House.
Save Walsall’s Green Spaces protesters at Walsall Council House.

A successful protest was held outside Walsall Council House this evening by the Save Walsall’s Green Spaces and Countryside Services Group, who lobbied Councillors as they arrived for a scheduled Full Council meeting.

The Group, recently formed on Facebook by concerned local residents to celebrate, support and protect Walsall’s green spaces, which are under threat from a possible £400,000 cut in funding proposed by Walsall Council under draft proposals recently published, handed out leaflets and spoke to councillors during the peaceful protest.

After the protest Linda Mason, spokesperson for the group, explained that although the subject of cuts was not being debated at the meeting, it was important to keep the matter fresh in councillors’ minds and to remind them how much the borough’s green spaces and in particular the Countryside and Park Rangers mean to the people of Walsall.

The placard-waving and banner-wielding protesters numbered around a dozen and were able to engage some councillors in conversation, who in the main appeared broadly supportive.

Protesters outlined their particular concerns regarding a proposed cut in Ranger posts. Councillor Arif, representing St Matthews Ward said however: “We are not cutting any Countryside Rangers.”

Ms Mason commented to The Bloxwich Telegraph:

“Cllr Arif’s quote is most welcome to the group.

“We will continue with our campaign which also includes an online petition, now signed by the largest number of people in Walsall Council’s e-petition history, and a web site.”

The group’s online petition against the cuts will remain active on Walsall Council’s website until the end of December and can be signed via the following link: Green Spaces Petition

Concerned Walsall residents are also being invited to join the Facebook group via the following link: Facebook Group

The group’s website which includes further information can also be found at:

Save Walsall’s Green Spaces and Countryside Services

Roy Aldridge of SSAFA Forces Help Walsall District at Bloxwich War Memorial today, Remembrance Sunday.

Armed forces support charity organises festive fundraiser

Roy Aldridge of SSAFA Forces Help Walsall District at Bloxwich War Memorial today, Remembrance Sunday.

A charity which supports both current and former armed services personnel is planning to hold a festive fundraiser in the run-up to Christmas, and is inviting kind-hearted local people to join them for an enjoyable night out next month.

The very active West Midlands North Branch (Walsall District) of the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA) Forces Help, the national charity for those who serve in our Armed Forces, those who used to serve, and their families, has organised a Charity Christmas Concert at St Bartholomew’s Church in Wednesbury.

Featuring the talented and ever-popular Pelsall Ladies Choir, the musical evening will take place on Saturday, 1st December 2012 at the historic church on Little Hill, Wednesbury.

Roy Aldridge of SSAFA Forces Help Walsall (pictured, above, at Bloxwich War Memorial) said:

“Each year, SSAFA’s trained staff and network of 7,500 volunteers provide practical support and assistance to more than 50,000 people, from D-Day veterans to young soldiers wounded in Afghanistan.

“To do this we need to raise funds, and anyone attending our Charity Christmas Concert at St Bartholomew’s will have the pleasure not only of a very enjoyable start to the festive season but of knowing that they have contributed to important local work.”

The concert starts at 7.30pm and tickets cost just £5.

For further information or to book tickets please telephone the Walsall District branch of SSAFA Forces Help at Gordon House in Sutton Road on 01922 722778.

SSAFA FORCES Help – West Midlands North Branch (Walsall District) can also be contacted by post at the T A V R Centre, Gordon House,  Sutton Road, Walsall WS1 2PA.

The Old White Hart, Caldmore.

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’)