THESE fine old photographs are over 100 years old and belong to Michael Bradley of Kingswinford. They show men from Lower Gornal and perhaps readers may recognize an ancestor among them.
The first picture dates from the late 1800s or early 1900s and the group of men is believed to be associated with Lake Street Primitive Methodist Chapel, although its not know where the picture was taken. It is thought that the men were all from the Gornal area and that they were either trustees of the chapel or lay preachers.
They are a disparate group of various ages with a fine array of facial hair; some sport neatly curled moustaches, some full beards, while others have luxurious side whiskers. The oldest gentleman appears to be the man sat at the centre of the group, clutching a stick. Would he be in his 70s or older when the pictures was taken? He may even have been born in the reign of George III. His style of dress is somewhat more old fashioned than that of his fellows.
And what of the young lad at the far right? He appears to be 7 or 8 years old, wearing a smart knickerbocker suit and long socks, and is he leaning against his father’s knee?
The original photograph was found in the family Bible of Michael's grandfather, Jabez Bradley, who came from the Graveyard area of Lower Gornal. The Bible was presented to him in January 1894 by the Zoar Methodist Chapel Bible class.
One of Jabez's brothers was James Henry Bradley, known as Blind Jim, who kept the fish and chip shop in Lake Street from the 1930s to the 1950s.
Another brother was Benjamin Bradley who for many years played in the Lake Street Chapel Band.
Their father was John Bradley, a prominent lay preacher in the Methodist movement. He attended and preached regularly at the old chapel in Lake Street.
Lake Street Primitive Methodist Chapel was built in 1841. The group were sometimes known as the “Ranters” and was established around 1820, with encouragement from the Darlaston circuit, and began meeting in local cottages. In 1926 a new chapel was built across the road from the old one and it was registered to solemnizing marriages on 15th March, 1927.
Our second picture is another filled with interesting, characterful faces. Michael believes it shows the Lake Street Primitive Methodist Silver Band and the location is Himley Hall, where the band had been performing at a fete or function for the Earl of Dudley.
The band look very smart in their uniforms and peaked caps, with their cornets, euphoniums and clarinets. But perhaps it is those that are out of uniform that are the most interesting.
The man sitting at the front and wearing the bowler hat appears to be holding a battered tin can; did he collect the money from the crowd at the band's performances? And what of the man at the far left, leaning against the windowsill with all the appearance of a stage drunk, with his unbuttoned jacket and collar awry?
Michael has speculated as to the identity of the young boy at the front. Is he the band's mascot or could he be a child of Himley Hall, possibly even one of the earl's sons, who wanted to be in the photograph?
Even more interesting are the women gathered at the window behind the bandsmen. Were they members of staff at Himley Hall or were they the wives of the musicians and were determined to make their way into the photograph one way or another?
l Do you recognize an ancestor among these Gornal men, despite the decades that have passed? Do you have any pictures of similar vintage to share with readers?Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Bugle House, 41 High Street, Cradley Heath, B64 5HL