Wednesday, November 22, 2017

 

 

 

 

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 Brum Magazines 2013

 

January 2013 - Issue No. 142

Carl Writes

Those who know of Gosta Green are declining in numbers; those who recall working-class Gosta Green are fewer still. Now dominated by Aston University, the very name of Gosta Green is fading away till soon it sadly will become no longer a memory but a place in history.

It is not on its own. Deritend, Ashted, Vauxhall, Brookfields and others are ignored by officials and the media and so are dropping out of popular use. They should not be allowed to disappear for if they do then those who lived, worked and played there lose something special - their neighbourhood.


Squashed between Aston Street and the Aston Road, Gosta Green - and like Deritend, Ashted and Vauxhall - was both a street and an area, and its name is an old one. The Assize Roll of 1306 mentions a William de Gorsty, and as late as 1758, Tomlinson's Plan of Duddeston and Nechells indicates both an Upper Gorsty Green and a Lower Gorsty Green.
By this date the two places were also called Gostie Green. This was indicated in 1750 by an assignment of lease from Benjamin Pinley to Josiah Jefferys and Joseph Stephens of tenements at Gostie Green in Coleshill Street.


John Alfred Langford explained this spelling change. In a number of old deeds he found reference to Gosty Green, Upper Gosty Green, Gosty Piece and Gosty Field in different parts of Birmingham, and he explained that gorse was still pronounced as goss by local country folk. Tomlinson also noted fields with names such as Upper Gorsty Close and it is apparent that once the spiny, yellow flowered shrub called gorse had been common locally.


By 1795 when Pye's Map was surveyed, Gosta Green was the hub of streets reaching west to Lancaster Street and Stafford Street, south to Coleshill Street and Prospect Row, and east and north to the Digbeth Branch of the Birmingham to Fazeley Canal. In this manner, the Gosta Green neighbourhood included parts of Birmingham and Duddeston.


One person who remembers it well is Lilian Humphries, whose memories are included in this month's Brummagem. As ever there is much more - from recollections of Hall Green to thoughts of Irving Street; from an account of Bournville Works Junior & Silver Bands to Birmingham's Pigeon Fanciers; and much more.

Happy New Year and have a bostin read Tara a bit Carl

Tara a bit

Carl

 

 

 

 

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  February 2013 - Issue No. 143

Carl Writes

Carl Writes whats in a name? A lot, for a name is more than just a term to differentiate one person from another, one place from another. A person's family name binds he or she to all those before who carried that name, all those forebears whose lives are lost but whose genes and blood run through us and help make us what we are.

Yes, of course each of us is a distinct personality and our upbringing and environment deeply affect us and help to make one person an individual - but we are not just isolated beings going through life separately. For good or ill we are fastened to those of our kin who came before, to those amongst whom we live, and to those yet unborn.


Just as much as we are part of a long line of family history so too are we linked strongly to the place to which we belong and which has helped define us. A sense of belonging and local patriotism has played a powerful part in English history.

Loyalty to our country our town, our district is shown in many vital ways, from our county regiments to our football, cricket and rugby teams, from our workplaces to our schools, from our places of worship to our municipalities, from the pub we drink in to the shops we spend in. We cannot escape who we are and where we come from.


And yet too many of our longstanding place names are slowly being taken from us because of official indifference and ignorance of their meaning and impact. One such is Ashted, which Les Robinson brings alive in this month's Brummagem. As ever there is much more to stir memories - from Ladywood to Hurst Street and from St Andrew's Road to Asylum Road.

Have a bostin read


Tara a bit


Carl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 March 2013 - Issue No. 144

Carl Writes

The Digbys were a powerful family whose power waxed all the more after the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 when six Digby brothers supported Henry Tudor against Richard III. With Henry victory and accession as Henry VII, the Digbys were well rewarded, with the youngest son, Simon, coming into possession of Coleshill in 1496.

From here, his descendants expanded the family's interests into Castle Bromwich, Sheldon, and elsewhere in north Warwickshire - and in the early 1800s they grew wealthier when Wriothesley Digby inherited much of the land previously held by the Holtes of Aston Hall. It lay to the north of the Coventry Road in Bordesley and Small Heath (both then in the parish of Aston) and a nunber of roads call out of the Digby ownership.

Kenelm Road remembers Sir Kenelm Digby, a philospher, poet and traveller. It is said that he married Venetia Stanley, hence Venetia Road, who was a beauty of the court of James 1 and keen to keep her exquisite complexion, Sir Kenelm gave her viper's wine which killed her. I have been unable to verify this. However, Sir Kenelm did lead a naval expedition in 1628 that defeated a French and Venetian force in the Mediterranean and it may be that Venetia Road recalls the victory over the Venetians

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Nearby on the former Garrison Farm Estate, Greenaway Street and Cattell Street remember two of the Digbys business associates, whilst Tilton Road (Kelynge Street until 1897) is called after Tilton-on-the-Hill in Leicestershire, whence the Digbys originated.

Life for the young John Purvin in Tilton Road was very different to that of the Digbys and in this issue we feature an extract from his life story, Look Dad. I'm Still Here. As ever there is much more to bring our past to the fore - from Birmingham Jazz Venues to Pryke's and the Bull Ring and form a tribute to an Irish Brummie to one to a talented engineer.

Have a bostin read


Tara a bit


Carl


 

 

 

 

 

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April 2013 - Issue No. 145

Carl Writes

As the bulldozers tore down the old neighbourhoods of central Birmingham in the 1960s, the views of working-class Brummies were not merely ignored they were unasked for. They became the forgotten people  forgotten that is by planners and officials but not forgotten by Canon Norman Power of St John's Church, Ladywood.

Aghast that good quality houses were demolished alongside bad housing, he watched angrily as whole areas deteriorated because of clearance, and was appalled at the resultant destruction of community spirit.

But Canon Power did not just look on, he acted. Almost a voice in the wilderness at a time when Britain was set on becoming a futuristic nation of wide freeways and high-rise flats, he called out for both a change of thinking and policy. He agreed that outdated and insanitary housing with communal facilities had to be swept away but he wanted them replaced by houses and not tower blocks in which residents were isolated from each other.

He also argued that, wherever possible, local people should be allowed to rent the new properties in their own neighbourhoods and not be exiled to new towns or distant estates. And Canon Power also stressed that because not all of the old housing was unsound it should be refurbished and not cleared.

Through his weekly columns in the Birmingham Mail and in his challenging book The Forgotten People (1965) this campaigning churchman pushed forward his sensible and thoughtful ideas. Unhappily his refreshing and informed call mostly fell upon deaf ears. Yet Cannon Power's urgings were heard by some.

Inspired by his writings, faith-based organisations started new housing associations that strove to put the needs of people before the ideas of the planners. And others were also inspired by Canon Power's personality and preaching as we find out in this month's Brummagem. As ever there is much more to stir your memories. Have a bostin read.


Tara a bit


Carl



 

 

 

 

 

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May 2013 - Issue No. 146

Carl Writes

It was the biggest volunteer army the world had ever seen or will ever see  the British New Army which drew in almost 2.5 million men from August 1914 until conscription took force from March 1916. The driving force behind it was Field Marshall Kitchener, the Secretary of State for War. He realised that the First World War would not be over by Christmas and that there was a vital need to raise and train a large force of men quickly to support the regular Army.

This was a small professional force of just under 250,000 regular troops, all volunteers but almost half of whom were stationed overseas. To their number could be added several hundred thousand reservists and Territorial Army volunteers.

Events proved Kitchener right and his New Army played a crucial role in the British war effort. Those recruited into it went into complete battalions under existing British Army Regiments but each also with the designation (Service).

One of those patriotic young men who joined it was my Great Uncle Wal. At sixteen, and under age, he had tried unsuccessfully to join the Coldstream Guards at Curzon Hall in Birmingham. Undaunted Great Uncle Wal then went for the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and was accepted. However, my Granddad, who had been wounded in 1915 and invalided out of the War, found out and turned up at the barracks with his younger brother's birth certificate.

Great Uncle Wal was then put into a Provisional Battalion with other under age volunteers and old sweats and eventually went on to join the 2nd Battalion the Royal Fusiliers. He served on the Western Front in Flanders and saw a lot of action, especially in the Passchendaele Salient.

In this month's Brummagem, his son and my cousin, Walter, recounts memories of his father and of his mother's people  the Davies family of Studley Street. As ever there is much more to stir memories  from thoughts of Ashted and Sheldon to an investigation into King's Heath and from recollections of the Bournville Youth Silver Band to John Tocker's moving tribute to Our Kid: Bernard Tocker.

Have a bostin read.


Tara a bit


Carl


 

 

 

 

 

 

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June 2013 - Issue No. 147

Carl Writes

It seemed that the land was covered in red, white and blue that day June 2, 1953 when Queen Elizabeth II was crowned. Red, white and blue bunting was strung from lampposts and across windows everywhere, whilst a multitude of Union Flags flew from whatever place they could be affixed. Across the country, the folk of working-class and lower middle-class neighbourhoods revelled in the celebrations.

Preparations were made months in advance for street parties on a scale never seen before but as on the day of the Coronation of King George VI in 1937, the weather was again a problem. It poured with rain in many parts of the country, but once more that did not deter the enthusiasm of the people. Unlike the recent celebrations for VE Day and VJ Day, which had to be put together with short notice, a lot of planning went into the street parties for the Coronation.

Many more organising committees had decided to hire school halls. Some had even paid for a charabanc so that their children could be taken on a tour of their town to look at the decorations in various streets. Games were also arranged, along with fancy dress competitions. In fact the only break in the fun came when crowds gathered outside the windows of the houses of those families that boasted a black and white television so as to watch the ceremony itself from Westminster.

The chance to celebrate came at the right time for the red, white and blue of the street parties brought colour to a drab landscape. Grey indeed was the late 1940s and early 1950s: grey skies, grey clothes, grey food, and grey times overwhelmed the nation. The euphoria that followed the victories of Nazi Germany and Japan in 1945 had been blasted by the cold winds of economic hardship.

Little wonder then that the nation celebrated enthusiastically the crowning of a young queen and looked forward to better times. This month's Brummagem brings you a wonderful array of photos and memories of that occasion. As ever more there is much more...

Have a bostin read.


Tara a bit


Carl


 

 

 

 

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July 2013 - Issue No. 148

Carl Writes

This month we include a moving tribute by Cal Pearson to her late father, Jesse Wood, who worked on the Spitfires at Castle Bromwich during the Second World War. Cal explains that her dad could never understand why the people who actually built the planes never got any recognition for what they did. She feels that it would be wonderful if they could have the recognition that they so richly deserve, even some sort of coin or medal and maybe something at Alrewas, would show how much they are appreciated.
I agree with her but actually feel strongly that all munitions workers should be recognised for their vital contribution to victory in 1945  all the more so as Birmingham was essential to the nation's munitions industry. By 1944, 400,000 Brummies were involved in war work. This was a greater percentage of the population than anywhere else in the UK.
By the end of the war, the workers at Spitfire factory in Castle Bromwich were producing 320 Spitfires and 20 Lancasters a month - more aircraft than any other factory in the UK.
Elsewhere in the city, at Longbridge, men and women turned out 2,866 Fairey Battles, Hurricanes, Stirlings and Lancasters; whilst at the nearby Austin works almost 500 army and other vehicles were made each week - as well as a multitude of other goods.
Indeed, the array of war work in Birmingham was staggering. Bristol Hercules engines made at Rover; Lancaster wings, shell cases and bombs manufactured at Fisher and Ludlow's; Spitfire wing spans and light alloy tubing at Reynold's; and plastic components at the GEC.
Up to the Battle of Britain all the aero-carburettors for the RAF's Spitfires and Hurricanes were made at SU Carburettors - and if it had been destroyed the air force would have suffered a mortal blow. Serck produced all the radiators and air coolers for these planes.
Workers at the Dunlop, Kynoch's, the Norton, James Cycle, Lucas, the Metropolitan-Cammell, Morris Commercial, the Wolseley, and the BSA (Birmingham Small Arms) all strove hard for victory.
Smaller firms were also crucial. Turner Brothers made a wide range of jigs and tools critical for aircraft production; Eddystone Radio and the Monitor Radio Company were significant in their field; jewellers turned their hands to intricate parts; and Hudson's Whistles supplied whistles to the Royal Navy and others.
Let us remember the munitions workers before it is too late.

Have a bostin read.


Tara a bit


Carl


 

 

 

 

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August 2013 - Issue No. 149

Carl Writes

Now cut through by St Chad's Queensway, Birmingham's Gun Quarter sadly is but a shadow of itself in its heyday; but for most of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the Gun Quarter included Whittall Street, Price Street, Loveday Street, Princip Street, Sand Street, Bath Street, Shadwell Street, St Mary's Row, Weaman Row, Weaman Street and Slaney Street.
They are streets with fascinating names and as fascinating histories. Shadwell may mean a shallow or boundary stream. The brook in question used to run near to the street before it crossed Livery Street and went across to the Great Pool that used to be on the Colmore family's New Hall Estate. Water Street also recalls this stream.
In the Middle Ages, Loveday was a Christian feast of reconciliation when the parish priest acted as a mediator in disputes. In Birmingham rent from a piece of land called Loveday Croft was used to pay for the provide entertainment on this day  hence Loveday Street. In 1907 the Birmingham Maternity Hospital was opened there. Thousands of Brummies were born there until it was closed in 1968.
Slaney Street, Weaman Street and Weaman Row takes their names from the Slaney and Weaman families and as for Princip Street there is a story that it recalls Gavrilo Princip. He was the Serbian who assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his pregnant wife, Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg, in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914  and thus who sparked the First World War.
However Princip Street's origins are much more mundane as it brings to mind a prosperous family given as Princep in an advertisement in 1797. In this issue Alan Stanford brings shares with us his recollections of the street in his younger days  and as ever we have much more to stir your memories: from childhoods in Maxstoke Street and Kenyon Street to recollections of Selly Park and Aston.

Have a bostin read.


Tara a bit


Carl


 

 

 

 

 



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September 2013 - Issue No. 150

Our Mom comes out of Whitehouse Street, Aston. Her address was 7 back of 6. Back of; it is a term that puzzles and baffles those who have no understanding of how the working-class of Birmingham lived - but for those many whose address was also back of then it is a phrase that is infused with pronounced senses of identity, belonging, loyalty and sharing.
Our Mom's house is long gone, but she sees it yet in her mind. You came down Whitehouse Street from the Aston Road North, past the Albion pub that is still on the corner, and then there were two houses, an entry, and two more houses.
The house on the right of the entry was number 6. Up the entry was a yard. They were called courts officially and this one was Court 2, Whitehouse Street but to Our Mom and her pals it was simply yet powerfully our yard, and there were hundreds upon hundreds of other our yards in working-class Brum.
In that yard there were four houses that backed on to the four that fronted the street. At a right angle opposite the last of these was a terrace of eight blind backs. They had no houses sharing their back wall as did a true back-to-back but like them they had no windows at the rear for their back wall was also the wall of the playground of St Mary's Infants School.
That yard had two shared brew houses in which the mothers did the washing in a copper on the day allotted to them. It had the miskins, a walled off area where the dustbins were kept, and six lavatories shared between two or three families.
Our Mom's experience of back-street Brum were the experiences of countless thousands of Brummies and in this month's Brummagem we pay tribute to the late Graham Twist, whose books bring to the fore the lives of those whose address was back of. As ever there is much more from memories of Saltley School and St Joseph's School Nechells to recollections of the Perry Hall Community Association and of an Irish Brummie Childhoos.

Have a bostin read.

Tara a bit

Carl



 

 

 

 

 


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October 2013 - Issue No. 151

How often have we wished that we could look upon our forebears and picture them at home, at work, in the street and at play? We could stare at such photographs for family likenesses and to seek clues about their personalities from their bearing and appearances. We could gaze upon them to find out more about their lifestyles, their homes, their environment and their neighbourhoods, villages and towns. And most of all we could feel that we knew them better because we had seen them.
Yet for anyone interested in local and family history, seeing our folk from the more distant past has been a mostly unfulfilled desire. From the emergence of photography in the 1830s, it was a phenomenon associated with the rich and powerful simply because it was so costly. Cameras were expensive and needed to be used by skilled photographers, who, of course, had to be paid.
Then from the 1950s onwards many working-class people began to break the shackles of post-war austerity. Prosperity opened up and with rising standards many of them began to buy houses, cars and goods such as cameras that recently had been out of reach as luxuries. Indeed the ubiquity of the box brownie became a symbol of an affluent society and was used widely to record and pass on family events, holidays and high days.
For so many of us, then, the photographic history of our families really begins in the 1950s. We may have a handful of sepia and posed photographs from earlier decades but not enough of them to draw up a broader picture of family, friends and places where they lived. It is the lack of such wider collections wherein lies the importance of a superb photographic source featured in this issue that has been brought to the fore and kindly shared with us by Jim Jones.
It relates to the Clintons, a back-street family from back of 77 Lower Essex Street and it shows photos from the early twentieth century that highlight the dignity and cleanliness of so many people who lived in bad housing and in poorer neighbourhoods. As such they are a rare if not a unique source to highlight the humanity and pride of working-class Brummies. As ever there is much more to stir memories.

Have a bostin read.

Tara a bit

Carl



   

November 2013 - Issue No. 152

Carl Writes: Remembering the Pub Bombings

Town was smaller in the early 1970s, but even so going up town was always something special because it was a place for a good night out, a place of laughter, and a place of fun. It was also a place you made an effort for - especially on a Saturday night.
Sometimes me and my mates would go to Rebecca's in John Bright Street, famed for its three floors, or else the Locarno where live music from a band alternated with records played by a DJ. But usually it was the Top Rank in Dale End.
The night would start with a few of us meeting up at our house and then catching the 90 bus to town, where we'd head off for a drink in either the Hole in the Wall or the Costermonger.
After a couple or three pints we'd make our way along Dale End to carry on drinking but also to start dancing - and with the usually unfulfilled hope of meeting a girl. It was the days when you still had to wear a suit and tie to get into a club, although the Top Rank was much too big to be called that as it was a proper dance hall.
And all of it was still really exciting and adventurous for us because in the autumn of 1974 I was only just eighteen and Our Kid, Darryl, was not yet seventeen - and once again we'd got in to the over-21s night. 
Because the Top Rank was across town we didn't often drink in pubs that were at our end of town, closer to the buses coming from the Stratford Road. Now and then, though, we did go into the Mulberry Bush at the bottom of the Rotunda, whilst most Thursdays  and unbeknownst to Our Mom and Dad - Our Kid used to meet his girlfriend just round the corner in New Street, downstairs in the Tavern in the Town.
He should have been there on Thursday November 21, 1974 but a few days before Our Mom and Dad had found out where he'd been going of a Thursday and stopped him that night. Thank God they did because if they hadn't he would have been there when it was blown up in the Birmingham Pub Bombings. But 21 people were not so fortunate. They were killed that dreadful night and many more were injured. In this issue of the Brummagem we remember them and join the call for Justice4the21.

Carl



December 2013 - Issue No. 153

Carl Writes:


Christmas began later in our childhoods. Its first sign came when Our Nan used to give us an Advent calendar for December 1. Each day after that, the first thing me and Our Kid would do after we got up was to rush downstairs to open a little door and take out the chocolate. As more and more doors were pulled ajar so too did the anticipation of Christmas Day grow more and more.
By the middle of the month our excitement was further heightened at school, as we decorated our classroom and made Christmas cards for family and friends, sprinkling them with glitter and glueing them with bits of cotton wool for snow. Then there were the preparations for the Nativity Play and the singing of carols.
Just before we broke up and a few days before Christmas, Mom would send us up to the loft to fetch down the boxes with the Christmas decorations in. They were old-fashioned, with home-made paper chains, garlands, crepe-paper streamers, honeycombed paper tissue bells and the like  and they all seemed to be in red and green. After that was done it was time to decorate the Christmas tree as Christmas records played in the background. I say records but really it was one  because I drove everyone up the wall when I was little by repeatedly playing Little Donkey.
In between the first opening of the Advent calendar and the dressing of the tree came the biggest and most important event of all for any Brummie kid in the build up to Christmas: the visit to the only true Father Christmas in the world at Lewis's.
He�d always been there. Our Moms and Dads had been to see him, just as we had and he had to be the real thing. It was a big event, going up town one dark night after school and dressed in your best clothes to join the seemingly endless queue of expectant children with their moms and dads that started in the Minories.
We seemed to spend for ever waiting patiently to go slowly, so slowly, up flight after flight the stairs. Each time we reached a landing we'd lift our little heads and almost plaintively ask When will we see him, Mom? Soon our moms always replied.
Then at last we reached the floor where Father Christmas held sway amidst a wonderful Christmas grotto - and now we started to crane our necks to see down the line to where he sat in splendour. Eventually the waiting was over and we sat on his lap. He asked us if we'd been good, and of course we had all year  hadn't we? Then he asked what we wanted for Christmas and we told him. Then it was perhaps a photo and off to the tub to dip our hands in for a present.
We all have special memories of Father Christmas at Lewis's, and as ever there is much more in this month's Brummagem from memories stirred by bricks and mortar to a Spring Hill Childhood and from a tribute to Auntie Doll, a proper Brummie, to a search for a mother's family.

Have a bostin read and a Merry Christmas

Tara a bit

Carl

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