HOW often do you find yourself in an argument with friends over when a particular event occurred? Nowadays we can settle such matters with a quick search on the internet or by consulting the Guinness Book of World Records, but what was available before them? One Black Countryman went so far as to produce his own mini book of records, which he would take with him when he went to the pub, in order to settle any arguments.
The pocket book of facts was brought to the Bugle by Trevor Shakespeare of Kingswinford, grandson of Joseph Shakespeare, the Old Hill chain maker. However, it was Trevor's maternal grandfather, Joseph Wheldon, who made the book of records. In the 1930s Joseph Wheldon was living at 42 Macmillan Road, Blackheath, and in a Letts pocket diary for 1933, bound in a little leather cover advertising J. W. Gill and Sons, the Birmingham makers of cardboard boxes, Joseph wrote down a list of interesting events and dates, both local and national. We have reproduced his list of facts as it is sure to appeal to anyone with an interest in Black Country history:
"Rowley church fire, 18th June 1913, Wed.
"Combswood strike, 1913.
"Coal strike, 1912.
"Railway strike, Sept 27 1919, Saturday.
"James Morris died, 27 Sept 1919, Saturday.
"Con Westwood died, Sept 27 1919.
"New Road Birmingham to Wolverhampton opened, Oct 20 1927.
"Freda Burnal murdered, Feb 5th 1921, aged 8 years. Florence Little murdered, July 8th 1921, aged 11 years, both by Harold Jones.
"Winston Churchill came to Dallows, 17 Jan 1906 (Wed).
"Joe Chamberlain came to Rose Tube works, Halesowen, Jan 22 1906, on the Monday.
"New organ opened Birmingham Road Chapel, Nov 19 1906 (Monday).
"Philip Crump drowned at Hayseech Pool, June 20 1910.
"Ehud Crump lost his arm, 1910.
"Powke Lane Board School opened, 1879.
"Charles Peace executed, Feb 25 1879.
"Mrs Baker jumped down Black Bat Pit, Sept 19 1879.
"William Mason jumped down Black Bat, Oct 20 1892.
"Stourbridge Extension and Railway tunnel opened, April 1st 1867.
"Spinners End goods station opened, July 1st 1907
"Collins Traction Engine ran down embankment, Perry Park Road, Sep 27th 1921.
"Joe Hadley broke his arm, 16 March 1903, Wed.
"Joe Homber died on the 17 March, on the 3rd day of the 3rd week of the 3rd month of the 3rd year of the century.
"Walter Bassano JP died on the 5th Feb 1903.
"Tibbits murdered his wife at Rowley, 8th May 1903, on the Friday.
"Sam Bowater found dead at Black Waggon Pit, 8th Jan 1879, Tues.
"Joe Harris killed his wife and children, Feb 5th 1878, Tues.
"William Darby fire on the 11-12 Dec 1884.
"Sergeant Salt came to Blackheath, March 25 1885.
"Dr Palmer the poisoner hanged publicly at Stafford, 14 June 1856.
"Last public execution at Stafford was on William Collier, 7th August 1866.
"PC Wood hanged himself, 14 June 1897 (Mon).
"Two children buried at Tumps Mound, 7 Feb 1920, Sat.
"William Lane murdered Eliza Dyson at Gipsy Lane, Tividale, June 26 1902.
"Waggon and Horses fire, Long Lane, Nov 5 1901.
"First tram run from Old Hill to Blackheath, Sept 27 1904 at 6.15pm, trial run.
"First tram for public service, Nov 19 1904, on the Sat.
"Trams stop running from Old Hill to Blackheath, June 30 1927, on the Thursday.
"Water broke in Station Pit, 1892.
"Fire at the Big Pit, Lye Cross, Turners Hill, Christmas Eve 1903.
"Fred Brewer cut his throat at Perrys Lake, Rowley, Sept 30 1920, Thurs.
"Geo Foster killed at Lake Quarry, Rowley, Nov 10 1921.
"Jack Bagley broke his arm at Shepherd Hole, 1921.
"Major Armstrong hanged at Gloucester Gaol, 31 May 1922, Wed, Derby Day.
"Armistice signed, war ended, Nov 11 1918.
"Peace treaty signed with Germany, June 28 1919.
"League of Nations formed, 1919.
"John Dallows fire, Mar 20 1896.
"Tipton Explosion, Mon, Mar 6th 1922.
"Steinie Morrison convicted, Mar 15 1911, for the murder of Leon Beron on Jan 1st, and reprieved on April 12th, died in Parkhurst, June 21 1921.
"Joe Patrick killed by lightning, 26 July 1901, Friday.
"Roger Casement hanged at Pentonville, Aug 3rd 1916.
"Poutney landlord of the Pheasant Inn, Bilston, cut his wife's throat, Easter Sunday 1922.
"Jobey Cashmore fell down stairs at home on Dec 8th, died in Guest Hospital, Dec 12th 1922.
"Ilford murder, Mrs Thompson was hanged at Holloway Gaol, Jan 9 1923. Frederick Bywater was hanged at Pentonville on Jan 9 1923.
"Joe Hill came to keep Shoulder of Mutton, Feb 22 1905.
"The last public execution in England was that of Barrett, May 26 1868.
"The last public execution of a woman in England, Mary Ashford, Mar 28 1865.
"J. Baker came to keep Beech Tree, Feb 22 1905.
"Miss Gertrude Ederle swam English Channel in record time, Aug 6 & 7 1926, starting Cape Grimson at 4.51, landed at Deal 9.40, time 14 1/2 hrs.
"Webb swam Channel, Aug 24 & 25 1875, 21 hrs 45 minutes, Dover to Calais.
"Burgess swam Channel, Sept 5 & 6 1911, his 16th try. Time 22 hrs 35 mins.
"Sullivan swam Channel, Aug 5 & 6 1923 in his 7th try. Time 26 hrs 50 min.
"Sebastin Fratoschi, Aug 11-12 1923. Record time 16 hrs 33 mins.
"Tooths swam Channel, Sept 1923. Time 16 hrs 54 min.
"Joe Kite cut his throat, Aug 1926, buried Aug 7th 1926.
"Joe Hadley missing from home, July 28 1926, found in Cakemore Marl Hole, Aug 1st 1926.
"PC Gutteridge murdered by Browne & Kennedy at Staple Ford, 27 Sept 1927. Browne arrested 26 Jan, Kennedy 27 Jan 1928. Brown hanged at Pentonville, 31 May 1928, Kennedy at Wandsworth, 31 May 1928.
"D. Bedworth killed by lightning in Britannia Park, June 28 1932, on the Wed.
"William Taylor killed at Golden Orchard, Feb 25 1920.
"Fire at Hampshill Pit, Mar 6th 1908.
"William Harris killed his son, Feb 27, on the sat night, 1933. Bob Harris buried at Blackheath, Mar 2nd 1933.
"Joseph Richards died, Sept 27th, on the Wed, 1933, quarry owner.
"Rowley Regis became a Borough, Ben Hobbs Charter Mayor, E. Read Deputy, Sept 28th 1933. Presented by Geo Lansbury.
"William Whyle died May 12th, on the Thurs.
"Jonathan Low died May 11th, on the Wed night.
"Mat Ashfied killed at Jubilee Pit, Oct 14th 1933, on the Sat.
"J. Dingle died, 19th Jan, on the Sat, 1935. Buried at Blackheath, 22 Jan 1935, on the Thurs.
"William Law killed, Whit Sunday 1935. Erich Taylor same time.
"Joseph Webster died, 3rd July 1935, on the Wed.
"Dallow fire, July 23rd, on the Friday.
"Tom Mansel drowned in quack, Easter Sat 1938
"Charlie Walker died, Nov 12th 1946, on the Tues.
"William Bowater's wife, died Feb 4th 1948, on the wed night.
"John George Haigh hanged at Wandsworth, Aug 10/49, on the Wed."
As you can see Joseph Wheldon's list is mainly concerned with local events, deaths, accidents and the like, but he does seem to have had a preoccupation with notorious murders and hangings and also cross channel swimmers. However, do readers know anything of the local characters and events listed and can they supply us with more details?
As for the hangings, while famous events in the their day, they may not be so well known today. However, the Bugle can supply readers with more details.
In 1921 15-year-old Harold Jones of Abertillery, Wales, murdered 8-year-old Freda Burnall. Due to a lack of concrete evidence he was acquited at his trial but, sensationally, within a few weeks of release he struck again, brutally killing Florence Little. He confessed to both crimes and because of his age he escaped the death penalty. He was released from prison in 1941. Charles Peace, executed in February 1879, was a notorious Victorian burglar who shot dead several people and in his day was the most wanted man in Britain. Dr William Palmer was the so-called Rugeley Poisoner, hanged at Stafford before a crowd of 30,000. Murderer William Collier, the last man publicly hanged at Stafford, was actually hanged twice after the rope broke on the first attempt. Major Herbert Armstrong, a solicitor, was known as the Hay Poisoner and hanged for the murder of his wife. Steinie Morrison was sentenced to death for the murder of Leon Beron. The conviction was unsound and Home Secretary Winston Churchill commuted his sentence to life imprisonment. However, Morrison went on hunger strike in protest and died in prison.
Sir Roger Casement was the Irish Nationalist executed for his part in the Easter Rising of 1916. The case of Edith Thompson and Frederick Bywater was a notorious one, Bywater stabbed to death Thompson's husband but both were convicted of the crime. Fenian bomber Michael Barrett was the last person to be publicly executed in England. Mary Ashford murdered her husband and was executed at Exeter in 1866, not 1865 at Joseph Wheldon has it. However, she was not the last woman publicly hanged in England. That dubious honour falls to Frances Kidder, who was hanged at Maidstone on 2nd April, 1868, for the murder of her step-daughter. Frederick Browne and Pat Kennedy were car thieves who shot PC Gutteridge four times when he pulled them over in a stolen car. Their conviction was one of the first instances where ballistics evidence was crucial. The final hanging mentioned in Joseph Wheldon's list is that of John George Haigh, the notorious acid bath murderer.
In his list Joseph Wheldon devotes a full page to cross channel swimmers and his facts can be checked against the record of all swims across the English Channel held by the Channel Swimming Association. Joseph's times are largely accurate. Gertrude Ederle of the USA became an international star when she became the first woman to successfully swim the English Channel. Captain Matthew Webb of Broseley, Shropshire, was the first person ever to swim the Channel in 1875. His feat was not repeated until 1911 when Thomas Burgess swam the Channel. Henry Sullivan was the first American to swim the Channel. We assume that Sebastin Fratoschi is actually Italian Enrico Tiraboschi, the first person to swim the Channel from France to England. Finally, Tooths would be US swimmer Charles Toth, another man to swim from France to England.