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We walked on animal bones at Bilston factory site

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: May 17, 2014

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THE article on the potted meat factory in Moseley Road, Bilston, in The Bugle (April 24 edition) sparked off a few memories.

I lived on the Stowlawn estate in the 1950s and 60s in Broadmeadow Green and well remember the all-pervading pong which emanated from the site.

Like most of the kids in those days, we shared a similar background, interests and often went to the same school. A complex social network of siblings, friends and neighbours and any other adult who felt the need to get involved, kept us reined in and safe. It was very rare for any major transgression to go undiscovered and, more to the point, unpunished.

Our main stomping ground was over the "bonks" which were the fields between Stowlawn and Stowheath Lane, and Stowheath Park (East Park).

In the "Big holiday" July/August very few of our families could afford to go away but that never bothered us. In those days we would meet in the morning by the brook or by the pipe or under the pylon or at the rushes and play until it started to get dark or more frequently when someone called "your mom's after you."

Strangely enough I can only remember those days being long and warm, lying in the grass listening to the skylarks or hiding in the grass being stalked by Red Indians, the German army or the Sheriff of Nottingham's men.

But whatever the game we were playing, came the unmistakable aroma of the "potted mate plairce."

I think that we became immune to it after a time.

Although the fields at Stowheath reached Moseley Road near the factory it was only on the days where we followed the brook from where it and came out of the culvert under Stowheath Lane to the other culvert under Moseley Road that we ever approached the site.

At the front of the factory there was a raised platform with a set of heavy wooden doors which led into the loading bay. On hot days the platform squirmed with maggots and the smell knocked your socks off.

I do remember one year we were on a scrumping mission at the rear of the houses backing on to the fields from Stowheath Place, when we realised we could get through a fence into the factory grounds. Faced with new territory to explore the temptation was too great and a bunch of us struggled through the steel bars into the premises.

A small wood of stunted trees shielded us from view as we crept towards the factory, warily looking out for "The Mon" – there was always a man expected to appear when we were engaged in misdeeds, each of us trying to be as quiet as we could.

The ground we were walking on seemed very uneven under the grass and our footsteps made a dry crunching sound as we moved. It took a few minutes for us to realise that we were walking on animal bones.

The sight of four or five small boys trying to get through a ten inch gap in a fence at the same time would have been worthy of a Tom and Jerry cartoon. Needless to say we never repeated the venture but it made a great story to scare younger kids with - the day we walked into the "boonyard".

I doubt very much that animal remains could be disposed of in that way nowadays. The Health and Safety Executive would have had a field day.

I don't know when the potted meat factory closed down but I imagine the people of Stowlawn and surrounding areas were delighted that they could sit in their garden on a summer's day without the stench which had blighted the area for years.

As a postscript, one of the kids I used to spend a lot of time with in those days was Don Powell of Slade fame.We went to Villiers School together and a nicer kid you could not hope to meet, he even used to share his Penguin bar with me!

Paul J Dickens,

Bilston.

Tel 01902 676296

paul-1947@live.co.uk

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