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Recalling three decades of Brades Village everyday life

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

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Recent Bugle articles about Oldbury's Brades Village community have unleashed a flood of memories for former residents of the village who recalled many of the places and people that Geoffrey Cliff mentioned in his first article (issue number 541, 9th January). In issue number 546 (13th February), we printed a second article based on further recollections from two of those people, and we now have a third correspondent to share her memories with our readers.

Pat Beauchamp wrote to us from her home at Babbacombe, near Torquay. She was born in 1939, the daughter of Ivy and George Evans, the latter particularly remembered by Geoff as superintendent of the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel Sunday school and sub-postmaster of the village post office. She lived her childhood and teenage years in Junction Street and at 15 Lower Albion Street (which later became 75 Albion Street). Pat paints a very vivid picture of the village of her day, and we are delighted to print her recollections in her own words. We hope that her recollections of the village will awaken further memories amongst the many people who will undoubtedly recognise themselves and their families in her story . . .

"Like Geoffrey Cliff, I too lived in Brades Village until I married, in 1963. My first few months were spent in Junction Street at No. 1, back of 57. These were houses built at the back of the other houses and the only way to reach them was via an entry. At only a few months old my parents Ivy and George Evans moved to Lower Albion Street (as it was called then) and there we lived until 1961 when they took over the business at the Post Office in Dudley Road East.

People who lived in the Village in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s will not fail to remember the shops and pubs. Who could forget Lucy and Horace Darby, the greengrocers? Nearly everyone bought their fruit and veg there. The day stays vividly in my mind when, coming home from school, I was told “Lucy has some bananas”. I remember running the remainder of the way home to tell my mom, but luckily for me, she already knew. However, I did not like my first taste of them.

Just along the road from Lucy’s was Mrs. Jackson the Newsagent. She had the monopoly on newspapers in the village. The Evening Despatch and Birmingham Mail, The Oldbury Weekly News and on a Saturday evening a queue waiting for the pink Sports Argus to be delivered to the shop. Had The Albion won? How had the Wolves, Villa and Birmingham City fared?

On the opposite corner of Junction Street was Mrs. Withers' shop. Ha’penny worths of sweets were sold amongst other confectionery and groceries. A little way down Junction Street from here was Annie Priest’s Fish & Chip shop. Take her a few newspapers to wrap her fish and chips in and she usually gave us a portion of chips.

Across the road from “Lucy’s” was Jack Davies the butcher. He was the only butcher on the village although some villagers did venture to Oldbury (one penny ride on the bus) to buy their meat. Along the road from here was the Post Office run by Jack and Gladys Clapham, this is the one my parents bought later. On the corner of Salop and Albion Street we had Mrs. Davies' shop, not quite as popular as Mrs. Withers' but still well stocked. Then on the corner of Salop and Junction Street was Mrs. Nicholls' corner shop. Mrs. Nicholls was my mom’s aunt, and mom’s cousins Jack and Madge often helped their parents in the shop. Aunty Alice sold sweets, groceries, cooked meat, haberdashery and toiletries. As I remember in the later years of the 40’s, a lot of foods were on ration, but she was very fair with all of her customers. Then we remember George Harper who delivered milk from his horse and cart. Take him a jug and he would ladle the milk into it. After he had gone, it was a race as to who would get the horse manure first, for their garden. Bread was also delivered to houses.

The village was the home of five pubs, The Jolly Collier, The George, The Fountain, The Tavern and The Blue Ball. [There were actually six, if one counts the Brades Tavern. The Tavern (on the Dudley Road) and the Blue Ball have now gone, but the other four are still there. Ed.]

We can’t mention the village without mentioning the Pardoes of Lower Albion Street. There was Mr. and Mrs. Pardoe senior; Mr. Pardoe's small front garden was always full of bright red geraniums every summer. The Pardoe sons were a sporty bunch, either playing football or cricket. This carried on with a couple of their grandchildren. We saw “Young Frankie” run the line at Wembley, and Rob (a special friend of mine, sadly no longer with us) played cricket and also enjoyed swimming. There was Rob’s brother Nigel, now living in South Africa, and Ped’s two daughters Janet and Mary. Come a little further up Albion Street and we could hear Betty Porter singing, what a voice! How we wished we could all sing like her. With the expert training she had from Mr. George Saunders in Roway Lane, she was one of several of his students who sang at our Sunday School Anniversary services.

Talking of anniversaries, those were the days! Us Sunday School children were fortunate to be trained for our special services by Miss Gertie Long, and when the day came we walked round the village in the morning and then three services in the Chapel. The evening service was always packed, chairs in the aisles, bursting at the seams. The next Sunday we walked round West Bromwich Street in our finery. Our parents always managed somehow to afford for us to have something new to wear for these occasions. Then we had the Sunday school trips. For most of us it was the only time that we went, say, any further than Birmingham. To start with the trips went to places like Kinver and the Lickeys, but after a few years the destinations became more adventurous, then we went to Rhyl, Barry Island or New Brighton for the day. When this happened it seemed as if the whole of the village came to wave us off. In the early 1950’s my mom and dad had been running a Youth Club at the Chapel; they took on a massive challenge when they decided to take the club on holiday. The majority of us had only been on a day trip; this was for a whole week. We went camping to Uphill, close to Weston Super Mare. It was a huge success, so we did it again and another year we went to Langton Matravers, close to Swanage, in Dorset.

Next door to us in Lower Albion Street lived Mr. and Mrs. Probert, and their children Nellie and Fred, then Carrie and Charlie Jacques and their six boys. Then came George Jones, the coalman and his wife and children Lorna, Barry, George, and Maurice. The coal wharf was next door with big dusty coal lorries filled with sacks of coal. We would often see steamrollers coming up and down Albion Street and turning right into Roway Lane. On the other side of us lived Dick and Doris Pardoe, then I remember the Slades, the Isherwoods, the Rowbottoms and many more, far too many to list. At the top end of Albion Street lived Dolly Plimmer (with her husband, as Mr. and Mrs. Jack Hughes). Dolly Plimmer used to take part in pantomimes performed at the chapel, she also made toffee called “Dolly Plimmers” and sold it. Opposite her lived Jim Hadley. Here also was a piece of waste land which we called “The Green”, this was a good play area for us children. We could walk across the Green and go down an alley into Junction Street, coming out opposite “The Jolly Collier”, passing by my great aunt and uncle Evelyn and Eric Jones and cousins Val and May. Next door to them lived my gran, Mrs. Nicholls and Uncle Bill. Living conditions were totally different in those days; two rooms upstairs, two rooms downstairs, a tiny kitchenette and a shared toilet in the yard. I don’t think many people in those days had an inside toilet, yet when I met my husband in the very early 60’s he couldn’t comprehend how we had survived like that when he had “lived in luxury”.

In Junction Street were the Adeys, and their daughters Margaret, Shirley and Winnie, who was excellent company, and could sing too; Mr. and Mrs. Dean and their daughters Marion, Janet and Anne; George and Lily Cowley with Pauline (my bridesmaid of 40 years ago), her sister Amy, (now in Canada) and brother Trevor; the Spooners, the Wards, the Mallins, the Jacobs, the Griffins, the Lavendars, Clara and daughter Joy. Wilf Newman also lived in this part of Junction Street. He was a piano teacher who took over as organist at the Chapel when Mr. Jim Long passed away. More of my family lived at this end of the street; Ned and Harriet, Floss and Alf Nicholls and cousins Ned, Brenda, June, Rita and Malcolm. At the other end of Junction Street were Mr. and Mrs. Westwood with their family June, Shirley, Brian and Colin; Roy and Alan Brace and their parents; Beryl Potter and her mom. We must not forget the caretakers at the Chapel, Mr. and Mrs. Gardner and their children Pauline and Brian.

Where Junction Street meets Salop Street there were some ruins of houses, which we used to call this “the old houses”. These backed on to the sewerage beds and in winter after the snow, us kids would ride makeshift sledges over the ruins of these old houses. Mentioning the sewerage beds, people whose homes backed on to them (ours was one) hardly ever complained about the smell, and common colds were something we didn’t often hear about. Close to the Jolly Collier was a path that led “across the fields” to West Bromwich Street. This started off as a downhill slope, and at the bottom of the slope, years ago, coal was picked here by the locals.

Dudley Road East makes me think of Mr. Sam Jeffries, Sunday School superintendent and trustee of the chapel; Mr. and Mrs. Ashley (yes, Emmie the singer) and their son Gordon. There were the Joneses who lived “on the knob”; Bessie, Jean and Doreen, and then the Longs; Fred the school teacher, Doris, his wife and their daughter Eunice. Fred was the youngest of the Long family. In the family home were Gertie (already mentioned), sister Mary and brother Jim, who was the organist for many years at the chapel.

Opposite the Post Office (which my parents later ran) was Lloyds Garage. Everyone has their own memories of this. Along from Lloyds was an opening and path which we called The Old Engine. Up here was the way most of us walked to Rounds Green School until we were 11 years old. A little way up here was a house with a garden which had a pond in it. In this pond grew watercress and at certain times of the year they would sell it and us children would be sent to buy a pennyworth of watercress. Up the Old Engine we came to the canal, where we would stand on the bridge and watch the barges go by. A friend of mine lived on the canal side just below City Road; Ruth King and her sister Christine. Occasionally Ruth’s father would let me have a ride on a boat entering the locks and I thought this was great.

Recalling Rounds Green School brings to mind headmaster Mr. Percy Ward, teachers Miss Ryder, Miss James, Mr. Reg Keyte. Happy days!

On a visit some six years ago, my friend Rob Pardoe and his wife Jan took me on a “tour” of Brades Village. How it has changed! Our old house in Albion Street has been knocked down and new ones built, the same with my gran’s house, and the house where I was born has long since gone. No chapel ... I knew that was gone. I went to the closing services on March 26th 1972 where my daughter, whom I would take from Sedgley to Sunday School there, was given a New Testament to commemorate its closing, together with other Sunday School children.

No doubt it has changed again since I was last there, but I have some wonderful memories of a place where I spent my childhood and adolescent years, a place I still call home. Although I left the Midlands forty years ago I have not lost my accent, and I am very proud to have lived in Brades Village."

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