THE POWELL FAMILY

Blakenhall in the 1950s and 60s

by Angie Johnson (nee Powell)


I first wrote out these memories in 2002.   I added a few things in 2004 and then I added a lot in January 2006.  Since they appeared on the Internet I have been delighted to get emails from people, from all round the world, whose own memories were triggered by reading them.  I have added to my memories and I have included, on the last page of this story, things from some of the emails I received.   But a couple of the emails got lost when I changed my computer - I would love to hear from them again and from anyone else who remembers this area or any of the other things I have written about.  Please email me at stonechat44@btinternet.com or through the Wolverhampton History and Heritage Society, c/o Bantock House.

1.  Introducing my Family

I grew up in Wolverhampton's Blakenhall district, in 14 Baggott Street, to be precise. My father, Clifford Powell, and mother, Phyllis Powell, had come to Wolverhampton when my father got an office job in Blakenhall. Previously they had lived in south Wales and my father had been in the RAF during the war.  So, along with my brother, Tony, and my sister, Gloria, we all moved over here. I was five when we moved.  We lived in Baggott Street.

2.  Baggott Street and Our House


Courtesy of David Clare.

Our house was 14 Baggot Street. It's the one with the maroon door. On the other side of it you can see the communal entry with next door - a passage way to the back of the houses and their gardens. Under the house there was a cellar with a grating  to the street for coal to be tipped down.  The coalmen would come with black faces from the coal dust and tip great sacks of coal into the cellar. Occasionally someone would lift the grating and get into the cellar to steal money from the gas meter, which you would feed with shillings.

14 Baggott Street had a front room (only used on special occasions) with a piano in. Then a little passage with a door down to the cellar. There were blue stone steps down to it and it was quite spooky down there. Then a living room, then a kitchen which had a copper boiler for the washing. My father always seemed to be using a water softener.  It must have been a hard water area, which I presume furred up the pipes. And lastly there was a bathroom, which must have been added on, but hadn't been plumbed in.  So we had to carry water for the bath.  There were lead pipes in the houses too.  There was a lovely old fireplace in the living room ,cast iron, and a dark wooden mantlepiece with beading in an oval shape.  Also there were cast iron fire places in the bedrooms.  Mum and Dad decided to get rid of the ones in the living room and front room and have those lovely tiled ones that were becoming fashionable.  When I look back the original was much nicer and had more character.

The stairs went up from the living room. Originally there were two bedrooms, one at the front of the house one at the back.   But the front one had be divided into two. The stairs went up between the two original ones. There was a closet in the back bedroom.

 


Courtesy of David Clare.

These houses are at the top end of the street. The castellations are very unusual and I suppose the houses must have had flat roofs. But when we were young we paid no attention to that sort of thing.


Courtesy of David Clare.

This is the opposite side of the street. At the bottom of the street the white building is the Corona factory, where we used to watch the bottles go round on the conveyor belt.

The girls who worked there had clogs to protect their feet. The Corona lorries used to hurtle round the corner and down the street. Many a time the crates came off.

The big building next to Corona was the Blakenhall Conservative Club where my father played bowls. We lived opposite the club and at night they would come out, all shouting "Goodnight", "Goodnight". I thought: "I wish they would go home, the noisy devils".

The family names I remember of people living in Baggott Street in the 1950s are:  Paskin, Rowe, Aitken, Kibble, Heritage, Crump, Ballard, Roberts, Wise, Powell, Hopkin (later Heslop), Reade, Rogers.  There used to be an old lady called Mrs Keys who lived opposite us.  She was always polishing her brass door furniture.  Mum used to say: “Who is going to clean it when when she’s gone?”

The baker and the milkman would come round door to door, usually the Co-op. You would have a number to give them to get your divi (dividend from the Co-op in the town).  Ours was 40474 - you never forget.  There was a Co-op grocers on the corner of Mason Street and a Co-op Bakery at the corner of Ranelagh Road and Dudley Road.  All the shops you needed were available nearby. Butchers, grocers, greengrocers. Mum would more or less do a daily shop; we had no fridge in the early days.

A Mr Boylin lived in the house adjoining our garden at the  back. He kept pigs. We were fascinated and used to sit up on the wall to look into the pigsty. A pig bin was located in Villiers Street outside the Niphon works.  You could take left over food there and it was boiled up and used for pig swill.  I never found out if it was for Mr Boylin or for general use.

At the top of the street was St. Luke's infants school, which had an air raid shelter in the playground. Opposite the school in Bromley Street was Nicholls Builders.  They had a large house there and a builder's yard attached.  Next to them was an orchard with an air raid shelter where the pub now is in Bromley Street.  There was also another pub half way up Bromley Street. 

There were a variety of shops on the Dudley Road - all you would need.  Butchers, bakers, grocers and a fish and chip shop. An electrical shop, newsagents and greengrocers (Haselocks).  There was also Brooke's cafe along from the King’s Arms.  A friend of my mum’s used to run the Grocers shop, a Mrs Anderson. My brother used to be errand boy for her at one time.  On the corner of Dudley Road and Bromley Street was Whiles fruit and vegetable shop. He also dealt in second hand furniture and antiques. Then, along Dudley Road, there was Corson's, a paper shop, and a shop called Tranters.

At the top of the street was St Lukes Infants School which had an air raid shelter in the playground. Opposite the school in Bromley St was Nicholls Builders. They had a large house there and a builder's yard attached. Next to them was an orchard (not closed in) with an air raid shelter at the far end where the Glassy Inn now is. I think this used to be The Baggott Arms for a time.  In the sixties there was a haulage firm here or near by owned by Arthur Samuels.Mum used to say that he took his wife out every Sunday for lunch. This was not so common in those days.

I seem to remember a pub half way up Bromley St on the right going towards  the Dudley Road (Does anyone remember)?

 
The Fountain Inn was on the corner of Cobden Street which was the street after Chapel Street and Cobden Lane, then came Hall Street, then Bromley St..  Chapel Street still exists but the other streets were demolished when the flats were built.

Our Doctors were Robinson and Wedderburn on the corner of Knox Road. There used to be a monkey puzzle tree in the garden.  You didn't make an appointment but just turned up and waited for the buzzer.  If you needed a doctor urgently you would just pop up to the Doc’s and slip a note through the letterbox.  He would usually come that day to see you. You felt as though you mattered in those days and they seemed like a friend of the family. The receptionist was in a room behind a sliding wooden panel which she would draw back when you knocked.

Shelley’s was the local Chemist, with lovely wooden panelling in the shop, and a weighing scale for babies, and great carboys up on the shelves with coloured water, and the smell of baby talc.  Mrs Shelley was a bubbly lady with blonde hair piled up on top. Their son went to the Royal School.

Fafnir (Fischer Bearings) , Villiers, Die Casting and the Star Aluminium, were all nearby. My Dad worked at Fischer Bearings, Henry Meadows, then the Integral and then, finally, Star Aluminium.  I remember the early morning rush hour with men going to work and marching past our house, all on foot. The same thing happened in the evening on their return.

 

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