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Brades Village then and now - reader revisits his old haunts

By Black Country Bugle User  |  Posted: March 27, 2003

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Our recent series of articles on the streets and people of Oldbury's Brades Village generated a quite surprising amount of correspondence from former residents.

Ever since Geoffrey Cliff wrote about his own memories of the village, we have received further memories from others who all have something to add to the story. One of our many correspondents was Reg Lockley, from St. Lukes Road in Wednesbury's Mesty Croft. He related his own childhood memories of life in Albion Street, and the many friends that he remembered from the 1940s and '50s.
Reg has now written to us again to say that he had been prompted by the Bugle articles to revisit his old haunts, and record his impressions of how the village has changed since those times - this is what he has to tell us.
"Today I revisited Brades Village for the first time in many years. Obviously time means change and, as expected, change was very much in evidence. I lived in Albion Street, as did some of my school friends, Alan Morse, Freddie Probert, Barry Jones, and Peter Pardoe. Not one of our homes is still standing on our side of the street. Opposite, the semi-detached houses which led up to Salop Street and round towards Dudley Road are still there. New houses are present, but not on the sites where I lived, only empty spaces where a few small trees and bushes exist."
Reg says that the new housing in Albion Street is very impressive compared to what he recalls being there before - old houses that had outside toilets and no bathrooms. Like many other correspondents, he recalls the days of having to boil water ready for a dip in the old tin bath.
Across Salop Street and towards Dudley Road, more empty spaces lead to the ‘Fountain Inn’ pub. Says Reg of this old watering hole - scene of a tragic murder on 1st April 1913:
"I recall that on many occasions I had to take an empty bottle and fetch a pint of beer from the so-called outdoor section. Always a sticky label was put over the stopper and down the neck of the bottle to stop us having a sip on the way home. Ten year olds were not allowed in the pubs in those days. The Fountain Inn also brought to mind the time that I and my girlfriend Joyce Copson (now my wife of 47 years) were on our way to visit Mr. and Mrs. Morse so I could introduce Joyce to them for the first time. As we got close to the entrance, who should appear from the doorway but Stan Shakespeare.
“Worro Ben”, he said, and I replied in kind, “Worro Stan”. After a few more steps Joyce said to me, “Who’s Ben?”. I had to admit that I was, and that all my mates knew me by that name, for what reason I never knew to this day. But Joyce has always called me Reg, that, of course, being my real name.
"More new houses as I walked towards Dudley Road again, built on what used to be an open space which once housed a large brick-built air raid shelter, and on to a space that was once Darby’s corner shop. Now on Dudley Road and turning left, I remember a small shop and then on the corner of Dudley Road and Junction Street, Mrs Jackson's paper shop. Everyone always knew her as Mrs. Jackson but in fact she was married to Alan Morse’s granddad in her last years.
"Down Junction Street, again there are more new houses on both sides but no Wesleyan Methodist Chapel. So sad. Alan Morse and myself were members of the Sunday School and attended at least once every Sunday but, when it was the anniversary, twice.
"As Pat Beauchamp wrote in her article in Bugle No. 548, 27th February, Miss Long trained us all, boys and girls, in preparation for the great day. She seemed a little strict at times but was always understanding with all of us. On a couple of occasions it had been known that some of us lads were chosen to help (?) the organist, not to play, but to pump up the organ bellows and to keep the right pressure at all times (well, most of the time!).
"Alas, no more Annie Priest’s fish shop. Annie always had plenty of customers owing to her skills as a fish fryer. Fish and chips for 6d; not bad when you think of today’s prices. More houses new to me as I approached the Jolly Collier pub, but there still was the passage-way which sloped down below street level, and on towards West Bromwich Street and Fountain Lane, used by me on many occasions as a shortcut when I had missed the bus from St. Michael Street to Oldbury in my courting days. Also at the bottom of the said passage, Leslie Shakespeare and friend Brian (?) Westwood once kept pigs in a walled off area. The pub itself looked in as good a condition as ever I have seen it. When I lived in Albion Street, I remember that I took accumulator batteries to a house near to the pub for recharging and brought back the ones that had been changed.
"Moving on along Junction Street, I came across still more new houses reaching down to Salop Street. In Pat Beauchamp's article she related how she and friends played in the ruins of old houses at the far end of Salop Street. We knew these houses as Ten House Row. After they were demolished I, along with friends including Albert Mallin, also played there, building our own little dens with all sorts of materials that came to hand.
"Moving back along Salop Street towards Albion Street, there are still more new houses on both sides, but no dirt road on the left leading to another coal yard, as there was in my days. I’ve crossed over Albion Street now, walking up Salop Street to Dudley Road. On the corner is a large house that was once the residence of the Screen family, of steam traction engines and second-hand boilers fame. As children we followed the machines when they made their way down Albion Street and into Roway Lane to wherever their destination was. Almost opposite their house is the dirt road known as the 'Old Engine', once again used as a short cut when, as children, we went to Rounds Green Junior School. At that time a steel tube barrier was in place to stop vehicles proceeding through to the Brades Road. Mr. Sam Jeffries' house was at the right of the entrance to the old engine.
"As I walked through towards Brades Road, I looked for the Edwin Danks football ground, thinking that it may have been built on. I was right, but only on the furthest part, a new housing estate. Still room for a kick-about at this end. At the top the land has been grassed over making it very pleasant to look at. Once again my mind took me back to those school days. On Wednesdays, on my way to school, I had to take a large jug and drop it off in Edwards' shop (just past the Brades Tavern pub). This jug I had to collect on my return journey home, but this time filled with their famous faggots and peas. I never did reach home without first having a few sips of the hot gravy. I didn’t get away with it because I had less on my meal. The shop was opposite ‘Brades Tools’, another famous name known the world over. Speaking of the Brades, their sports field was situated just over the canal bridge and up a dirt road; a large ground used for football and cricket matches, and once again memories came flooding back.
"In Bugle No. 451, 19th April 2001, was printed an article entitled, 'Welshman who became a well known name in Oldbury'. His name was 'Taff' Hier, and he was a great sportsman. He opened a sports shop in Birmingham Street in Low Town, Oldbury. It was there that I joined the then O.A.A.C.C.C. (Oldbury Athletic and Cross Country Club), who also used the Brades ground for training. It was through Taff’s foresight and hard work that the club was formed for the benefit of the youth of the surrounding areas. Training took place a couple of nights each week; a warm up first and then road work. Out of the ground turning right in Brades Road to Rounds Green Road, passing Accles & Pollock (world famous name again) into Freeth Street, left into Dudley Road, past Edwin Danks boiler makers. The Gas Works, Screen Brothers, Davies the butchers, Lloyds Garage and Coaches, the Old Engine, then left once more into Brades Road and back to the sports ground again. About two miles in all.
"I only met Taff on two occasions to speak to but from that I learned that he was a man to be respected and admired. The training I received from that club helped me in my Army days to become a permanent member of the 3rd Royal Tank Regimental Athletic team, for four years, both in Hong Kong, 1950-52 and Germany 52-54. Those were the days I ran the 1 mile, 3 mile and of course Cross Country whatever the distance.
"Through Geoff Cliff’s first article in Bugle No. 541, 9th January 2003, I have met Alan Davies, spoken on the phone locally to Peter Pardoe, Graham Shelswell and Alan Morse, and have arranged to meet Graham Shelswell and Stan Terry in Torquay in June when Joyce and myself are down that way. Graham and Stan both live in Brixham, South Devon and married sisters. I have not seen Graham or Stan for over 46 years, as was the case with Alan Davies until this week (12th March Wednesday) when he visited our home. He has not changed that much in looks, but the hair is a little less and now silver in colour.
"Once again I am indebted to the Bugle for bringing lost friends together again. I have often read how people feel when this has happened to them through your paper. I now know that feeling and it’s great. Please keep up the good work, I wish everyone the very best for the future."

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