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Sketches, photographs and research have all helped to keep the region's unique history alive

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: August 25, 2014

By John Workman

  • Above: Bringing in the harvest in Cradley. Below: The Wharf, Old Hill, 2003, now gone forever

  • Two sketches of Lower Lichfield Street, Willenhall, by John Williams, 1984

  • A Black Country pub of yore

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THE Black Country's appearance is changing, almost on a daily basis, and to recall the way things were we have to rely more and more on the postcards of yesteryear, a treasure trove of historical information stored in archives' departments, and sketches and portraits completed in years gone by.

The local watering hole, for decades the epicentre of many communities, has lost its edge and now dozens have disappeared without trace or been transformed into houses, restaurants or the local take-away. The demand for new housing is once again at the top of the political agenda and vast acres of land that used to support the life blood of Black Country industry now support housing estates for the growing population.

We swoon at images of agriculture, hay making and harvest time in fields that surrounded collieries and iron and steel plants, and can only imagine how green many corners in the Black Country must have been when industrial activity was at its height. This is therefore our tribute to the local artists, archivists, historians and more recently photographers, who over the years have recorded and kept and who still keep the history and heritage of the Black Country very much at heart and very much alive.

We are reminded of this by John Williams and his wife Dot who have responded to the Bugle article on August 14 about the Adey family's surprise to find that their family greengrocer's shop in Willenhall, which was opened during the Great War, was taken down brick by brick during demolition in Lower Lichfield Street, Willenhall, and rebuilt at the Black Country Living Museum. Dot told us: "Reading about the Adey family made me scroll through many of the sketches that John did in the 1980s before the clearance of buildings took place, and I came upon two, showing both sides of a stretch of Lower Lichfield Street and how it looked in 1984.

"Both pictures are of views looking towards Willenhall town and the left-hand side sketch is of particular interest because both myself and John reckon it shows the Adey family greengrocers."

It could well be the same shop in what is definitely the same street, vistas captured by the keen eye and expert hand of artist John Williams thirty years ago. These sketches are now priceless and will forever help to tell the story of the Black Country as it used to be.

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