SHIRLEY Gentry (nee Castree), is a mine of information on Pensnett of old, as some recent articles have proven.
This week she takes us on another trip back in time, focusing on some of the pubs, chapels and farms in this corner of the Black Country...
Pensnett has seen a lot of changes in its time like most places. Gone are the days when you could walk through the cornfields from Albert Street in 'Upper Pensnett', past the aptly named Nanny Goat's Farm and on through the mining area of Low Town to Netherton. At this time also, in the 20s and 30s onwards, you would see across the main Kingswinford to Holly Hall road, Hickman's Farm set up to your left with its fields and grazing animals. This farmland became part of the Russell's Hall complex and Nanny Goat's Farm was swallowed up by a council estate, still fondly referred to by older residents as the Nanny Goat's Farm estate. Similar council houses were built in Church Street, Chapel Street, Queen Street, Swan Street and Blewitt Street.
““I remember my uncle James Jones's terraced house at the top of Church Street next to Rushton's shop had a communal yard, a 'brew 'uss', an outside toilet and a deep well in the garden (plus a cellar!).
“In the late 40s and 50s new council houses were built by the Garratt Brothers, where old pit banks plus ash pits ran down from Queen Street, behind the Church Street houses to Chapel Street, incorporating Lower Albert Street.
This area, where my uncle Joe Jones would take me as a youngster, to pick buttercups, became Belmont Road - again aptly named. The old pit which was sited near to where the Holly Bush pub once stood remained a derelict area until much later when it was partly built on. Not all 'old' properties have gone and you can always find some 'survivors'! “Pubs such as The Rifle in Church Street, The Holly Bush and The Lion in Bell Street have gone, but The Fox and Grapes has survived. Others such as The Samson and Lion and The Swan have had a change of use.
“Most of the small shops I remember from the 40s and 50s have mostly disappeared or have had a change of use.
“The two 'lost' chapels, mentioned in Ned Williams’ book, The Primitive and The Wesleyan, stood in Church Street.
The tall Primitive Chapel looked down Queen Street from its lofty position, to the railway bridge, across an area of old terraced houses and cottages with places colloquially called The Long Entry, Maiden Tub Row and Red Fly Lane.
“Youngsters began Sunday School at the 'Primitive' and some were eventually presented with lovely red hardback covered, hymn books. I remember anniversary processions assembling here to be led round the street by the Boy's Brigade Band. I also remember that my sister, Christine and I would regularly go round the side of the chapel to a small annexe to pay in our mom's one shilling for the Women's Death and Burial Club.
“The chapel was most obliging if anyone wanted to borrow its benches (normally used in the construction of the anniversary 'platform') for parties. I remember every September my friend June Parry would have a big birthday party and her father Philip would, with some help, carry two benches down Church Street and back again when the food, fun and games had ended.
Gravestones “The Wesleyan Chapel stood between Queen Street and School Street. It was a 'lower' brick-built building set back behind gates and a wall. I remember there used to be old, dark gravestones there which you would walk past. The Sunday School, I believe, and the Youth Club operated from the side of the main building. My sister recalls a great youth club adventure weekend at Nash Court in the charge of Miss Yvonne Bennett. There was midnight orienteering over the Clee Hills on the Friday, a hike followed by an evening social on the Saturday and a service on Sunday to round the trip off.
“The anniversary photograph, given to me by my sister Christine Castree, shows the youngsters taking part in 1960. Local anniversaries took turns for their events. I believe The Mission at Bromley held the first one followed by the Bromley Methodist on the first Sunday in June. The Wesley came next on the second Sunday in June followed by St James' Methodists. The Independent next was followed by St Mark's Church of England. It was an exciting time when, with the girls in their white frocks and ankle socks and the boys spruced up in their best clothes, could parade, sing and recite all they had practised.
“The girls on the left side extension are...
Back row: Mary Caswell, Sandra Cox, Margaret Hurdman, Sylvia Thornesbury.
Middle row: Christine Castree, Christine Cooper, Pat Bill.
Front row: Boys (?), (?), (?), (?).
The men at the back of the group are - left to right: Mr Bert Cox, The Minister, Mr F.
Dabbs, (?), (?).
Back row: Sonya Cox, (?), Jennifer Jones, Carol Monkaster, Vanda Phillips, (?), Edna Corbett, Sylvia Whittacker, Marlene Hughes.
Next row: (?), (?), (?), (?), Maureen Lewis, Carol Bridgewater, Janet Gennard, (?), (?), Ann Yates Next row: (?), (?), (?), Glynis Twigg, (?).
Front row: (?), ? Lamb.
“Just on the front left is Mrs Preen who was in charge of the Sunday School. Perhaps other names could be provided by your readers, and much more information about these two Pensnett chapels”.