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Reflecting on how one Black Country town has changed

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: August 25, 2014

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WE all know how much the towns and villages in the Black Country have changed, the once well attended markets reduced to sparsely populated open spaces, shutters replacing window displays and at least a quarter of shops, if not more, empty.

Mrs Eva Homer who is now a young 94 years of age, has been casting her own mind back to what she considers were very definitely the good old days and with help from her son Colin she has sent us the following letter. She told us: "Walking along Halesowen Street in Old Hill I wondered to myself whether the various supermarkets we now have, and places like the Merry Hill Centre are really the progress we were looking forward to twenty, thirty or forty years ago. They are largely responsible for creating a vacuum on the high street and it makes me feel sad when I reminisce back to the days of my youth when we had a wealth and variety of shops to choose from.

"I can't begin to list the number of places of worship there were, but there were a lot. There was the fire station, post office, three banks, the grand cinema, Copes's petrol station, a men's barber shop and ladies hairdressers, Mr Forest's clock and watch repairs, and Mr Jones's furniture shop. A shop that sold cooked meats, groceries, faggots, the Cook Shop of course, ironmongers such as Billingham's, Fendall's, Thompson's, Hollies the plumber. Other grocery shops included Crumpton's, the Cooperative, Sidaway's, Mason's, Downing's. Bread and cake shops like Troman's, Birch's, Marlow's, Wimbush's, and Fran's Pantry.

"I remember at least seven butchers which included the Coop, Brough's and Thomas's, and fruit and veg shops including Harris's, Dunn's, Westwood's, Edmond's, Walker's, Taylor's, Hunt's and Pearson's, several of whom sold fresh rabbits and poultry.

"There were shops that sold linen and sweet shops by the handful and chemists including Withington's, Brettle's and Powell's. I remember a shop called Carpenters sold fireworks on November 5th, not before. Then there were the shoe shops, the men's outfitters. There were so many that if they were all brought together they would probably fill the Merry Hill centre."

Eva also provided us with a photograph of a Spring Meadow Sunday School outing to the Clent Hills circa 1930-31. This was Jane Mitchell's Class and a young Eva enjoying the fresh air is on the front row far right. The girl immediately behind her was a blind girl called Ruth Darby. Others in the frame include Jane Mitchell, back far left, Mary Evans, Doris Downing, Ivy Priest, Edith Watts, Florrie Finlow and Betty Riley.

Can you take a trip down memory lane and remember the number and variety of shops that used to fill the high street in your particular Black Country town? If you can you will probably stir others readers memories at the same. Email jworkman@blackcountrybugle.co.uk or call Bugle House on 01384567678.

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