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We learnt to swim in Netherton canal

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: January 20, 2014

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THE photographs of N. Hingley & Sons Limited, "Noah's" in The Bugle (December 19 edition) brought back lots of very happy memories of my childhood not long after the Second World War.

I was born in "sleepy valley" and I, with my school mates from the Iron Schools, played in and around most of the areas shown, both in Netherton and to a lesser extent Old Hill.

We learnt to swim in the canal and sometimes used to swim from Bishton's Bridge to Primrose Bridge as we got to be good swimmers. The water from Bishton's Bridge to the bend past the scout hut was quite deep but it went shallower as you got into what we called the Dock and was shallower on to Primrose Bridge. The Dock opened out into a large triangular area where the barges off-loaded coal, pig iron and other supplies. About 70 or so yards from Primrose Bridge, hot water from the furnaces was emptied into the canal.

We called this the "warm hole" and this was where we learnt to swim and did most of our swimming, usually no costumes I might add. There used to be a pipe, about a foot in diameter I seem to remember, that crossed the canal on the side of Bishton's Bridge and we used to climb on this and dive into the water.

Below the towpath by the warm hole was a canal arm and below this was a field and adjoining this was a large area of slag, klinker and waste from the furnaces. It is now a large housing estate.

A little further along the towpath, past the scout hut, was a lime kiln. I used to go there with my granddad to get the lime for his allotment and to whitewash the 'brew'uss'.

The allotments were down a bank that adjoined the playground of the infants section of the Iron School. The senior school had their own allotments under the supervision of Mr Charles "Daddy" Precious, the science teacher. In the allotments, at the opposite side of the school at the bottom of the embankment of the Earl of Dudley's railway line that brought coal into Baggeridge Wharf, was a pool, which we called the whimsy.

It froze over in winter and was great for ice skating and ice hockey. We didn't have skates, just our shoes, used slates for a puck and branches for hockey sticks. In the spring it abounded with frogs and newts.

Bantock's vehicles used to collect black painted wheelbarrows from a firm in Cox's Lane, Old Hill, and deliver them to Bantock's yard that was on the opposite side of the canal to Lloyds Proving House where A.G. Billingham's Garden Supplies now is. We used to hang on to an iron rail that was on the back of the trailer and ride from Molyneux Road up to the Iron Schools, then jump off.

John Darby,

Chantry Road, Stourton.

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