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Black Country train trips for pleasure parties

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: April 22, 2014

By Gavin Jones

  • Prices, stations and a choice of dining rooms

  • The Wren's Nest, well worth the walk from Dudley station

  • The cover of the 1913 brochure

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WE KNOW our army of steam railway fans will love this curiosity, which has recently become part of the fascinating collection assembled by Graham Hughes, retired historian of Wolverhampton Wanderers.

It's a small brochure, dating from 101 years ago, with the charming title of 'Information for Sunday School Pleasure Parties'. It was issued by the L&NWR – London & North Western Railway, and featured among the many Midlands attractions between its pages are the various attractions of pre-First World War Dudley. This was of course a couple of decades before the zoo was established. The chief attraction of Dudley," it reads, "is its Norman Castle, dating from about the Ninth Century, which deserves to be much better known than it is. It is rich in historical interest, having been held by the Empress Matilda against Stephen in 1138.

"In 1175, during the Civil War, it was again held for Prince Henry in his rebellion against his father, Henry II. Queen Elizabeth visited it in 1575, and a few years later it was under consideration as a place of detention for Mary queen of Scots. In 1646 it again became the scene of battle, and was captured by Cromwell's troops under Sir George Brereton.

"From the eighteenth century it was habitable, but since that date has fallen into decay; there still remain, however, substantial evidences of its former grandeur. The hill upon which it stands, now covered with trees, presents a scene of great beauty, in the summer time the walks of which are very delightful.

"From its keep can be seen, on a clear day, a magnificent vista, including places so far distant as the Worcestershire Beacon, 32 miles away. There are also several interesting caverns. In addition to this, the lovely eminence known as the Wren's Nest, some three quarters of a mile away, will well repay a visit.

"Visitors should not fail to visit the Parish Church, situate at the top of High Street, in which is to be seen one of the most exquisite stained glass windows in the country."

The timetable and price list (reproduced at top right) offers trips from any of three Birmingham stations (New Street, Vauxhall and Aston) at a cost of a shilling each in Third Class, for those travelling within a group of ten or more; with a reduction to 10d for those in a group of 30. Adderley Park and Walsall were fractionally more expensive, with Wolverhampton slightly cheaper with a large party. Trips were also laid on from Derby, Burton and Coventry.

There is also a short list of places where food and drink could be had. Within half a mile of the station were Mr Furnival on Castle Street, and Wright's Dining Rooms on High Street, who could accommodate 400 and 100 diners respectively. The Dudley Cafe Co., further up the High Street, could comfortably hold 500. All charged tuppence for hot water and 6d for tea, but Mr Furnival was the cheaper option for dinner, asking 6d rather than his competitors' 9d.

If that half mile or so seemed a bit much, Mr M Dudley of the Dudley Arms Hotel could pick you up from the station in a carriage.

Do you have any local railway memorabilia you'd like to share with our readers? Bring it to Bugle House, give us a call, or send an email to gjones@blackcountrybugle.co.uk.

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