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Celebrating our heritage with more Dudley Dowells

By john workman  |  Posted: September 22, 2011

The Dudley & Dowell drain cover at Martlesham Heath.

The Dudley & Dowell drain cover at Martlesham Heath.

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THE SEARCH for Dudley Dowells has hit a rich vein of support just recently and Bugle readers have been out far and wide doing their very best to bolster the ever growing list of sightings. But pride of place on this occasion goes to Steve and Anne Goddard, formerly of West Bromwich, who have discovered a bostin’ example where they now live.

“We migrated to Martlesham Heath in Suffolk twenty-one years ago”, Steve told us, “but return home to our roots regularly. On one of our visits to the Black Country in early June, by pure chance we found ourselves reading issue 980 of the Bugle and inside there was a story about Dudley Dowell sightings made in Devon by Rich and Jan Peckover from Great Barr. On our return to Suffolk it became obvious we had to find our own Dudley Dowell, and although the ones we managed to find are not too exciting in themselves (drain covers), they were discovered at an historic place.

Made by Dudley & Dowell Ltd at Cradley Heath, Staffs., they are located in the wings of a remnant runway here at Martlesham Heath. This is where Hurricanes and Spitfires were flown by famous Second World War pilots such as Group Captain Sir Douglas Bader, Wing Commander Roland Robert Stanford Tuck, and Group Captain Peter Townsend, all of whom must have passed the humble Dudley Dowells at one time or another.” Douglas Bader served at Martlesham Heath with 222 and 242 Squadrons, and at this time of year (September 15th is officially Battle of Britain Day) it is worth remembering the sacrifice The Few made as they fought tirelessly in the skies above south-east England to defeat the Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain of 1940.

During the battle, which lasted several weeks, a total of 544 aircrew were killed, 422 wounded, and 1,547 aircraft destroyed. The planes may have left Martlesham Heath (the aerodrome finally closed for redevelopment in 1963), but ironically the Black Country drain covers continue to do the job for which they were made.

Steve was worried his Dudley Dowell wouldn’t make the Bugle collection. “The drain cover looked pretty ordinary to me, but I have to thank my father Ron Goddard who encouraged me to join the Dudley Dowell trail, a Bugle feature he is especially interested in, and by a remarkable coincidence he still lives opposite the house where Richard Peckover lived as a lad. Hi Richard!” Steve may consider his Dudley Dowell not very exciting, but from the photograph he took we have been able to ascertain the approximate year the ironwork was made.

Apart from the maker’s name and address, there is also a patent number clearly visible in the casting which refers to the year 1926. The drain cover shape is also quite different to the majority of roadside ironworks previously submitted by Dudley Dowell enthusiasts.

The aerodrome was opened in 1917 during the First World War when the Experimental Aircraft Flight of the Central Flying School was transferred from Wiltshire, and the drainage system was either added to or upgraded nine years later.

Today Martlesham Heath has been re-developed, with housing and commercial units occupying most of the site, and only Steve and Anne Goddard will know the significance of the Dudley Dowells that still serve a purpose near where they live.

As a postscript Steve is appealing to Bugle readers for any pictures of Glover Street in West Bromwich where he lived as a youngster in an old back-to-back. If you can help please contact us here at Bugle House.

Other Buglers on the Dudley Dowell trail this time round include David Howard of Dudley who was in Bournemouth recently and took a smashing picture of a Victorian Penfold hexagonal post box made by Cochrane, Grove & Co. of Dudley in the mid-19th century; Brian Lawrence, a Tiptonian now living in Teignmouth, Devon, who took some pictures of Dudley Dowells Thomas Dudley items whilst visiting St Marychurch near Torquay; Alan of Alrewas, formerly of Hednesford, who tracked down another Dudley & Dowell drain cover in Lowestoft, Suffolk; and Tony Gudgeon, a resident of Fishponds in Bristol who spotted a cast iron Bean mooring (Tipton made) on the quayside at St Mawes in Cornwall during a recent holiday. (Catch up with the rest of the feature in Bugle 995).

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