Now and then

This was my objective yesterday.  I wanted to take a “now” shot to compare with an image reproduced in an excellent book by Ray Shill, Wyrley & Essington Canal Through Time.  I acquired this from Alibris, which I use as an online bookshop, especially for out-of-print and second-hand volumes.  Several of Ray Shill’s books are available, including Wyrley & Essington from £3.99 plus p&p (just search by author).

The same image was featured by Brownhills Bob in The scent of jasmine.

I found it difficult to find the correct angle and I am still not sure what sort of lens the photographer was using.  The two main common landmarks, in addition to the angles in the near canal bank, are the black chutes and the tree that grew in front of Wharf Cottages.

Anglesey Wharf, from Wyrley & Essington Canal Through Time by Ray Shill (page 66).
Anglesey Wharf, 2017.

The two chutes that remain are those nearest to the cottages, not the larger apparatus in the upper image.

All that remains of the coal wharf today.

Dad used to say that in his childhood, from about the mid-1930s, they were already disused and that other structures, like the one in the top picture were used instead, as well as the screens that could fill boats more quickly, see for example Brownhills Bob’s Screen Stars.

Perhaps grandfather Sam Dennis, and certainly his father, uncles and grandfather, would have passed in front of the cottages on their way to and from work and probably exchanged greetings with the folk who lived there.

Ordnance Survey 1938 (published 1946), reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.



Cullen’s Wharf

I thought I would add some more graves from Ogley Hay to Find A Grave, but I like to find out something about those commemorated; there is a box for “Bio”.  This time I found a name that I had not heard before: a local place that I know well, but never by the name Cullen’s Wharf.

When you turn the stone …

On the face of it, this is a simple, if decorous memorial to a man named John Harris who died nearly 130 years ago.  The inscription ends “Gone but not forgotton” (sic), and yet there are no flowers and no family trees online that I can find.  There is not even a memorial to Mrs Harris inscribed in the space available.  One day, though, someone might take up the story.

Lichfield Mercury 9 Nov 1888: DEATHS: HARRIS. — On October 30th, at Cullen’s Wharf, Ogley Hay, John Harris, aged 43 years.

Cullen’s Wharf?  Ogley Hay?

Why had I not heard of this before?

Lichfield Mercury 10 Aug 1888: WANTED an Experienced GENERAL SERVANT, not under 20, comfortable home and good Wages to a competent person. None other need apply to Mrs Cullen, the Wharf, Chasetown, near Walsall.

The key link to the hapless Mr Harris is not that he died there, but that his wife was Elizabeth Cullen, from Somerset.  They had been servants at the Vicarage in West Lydford and were married there.  But what brought them to Ogley Hay?

The connection appears to be that a local colliery agent named Thomas Cullen lived by what we know today as Anglesey Wharf, probably at Jasmine Cottage, which has featured on BrownhillsBob’s wonderful blog, for example in The scent of Jasmine and which stood on the east side of Wharf Lane, between Brownhills and the Triangle, Burntwood (it’s under the motorway, now).

Cullen’s Wharf in 2016

Thomas Cullen was born about 1830 in Somerset and in 1841 lived at Ashcott, Somerset, about two or three miles west of Street.  Elizabeth Cullen, the future Mrs Harris, likewise.  I think both were born at Ashcott.  They must have known each other and were almost certainly closely related.

John I Chapter IV (now and then)

Some time back I found a black and white photograph of coal-laden boats at Anglesey Wharf, one of the places from where Cannock Chase Collieries shipped out their coal. I had it in mind to take a “now” picture, but as my motto is not carpe diem, I let it drift. A couple of weeks ago I took a print of the “then” picture so that when I passed the scene I could try to get the right angle. There was a substantial bush in the least convenient spot; it was as though someone had had the foresight to obstruct just such a project.

Anglesey Wharf then …
… and now

Today, however, I found that the rangers have been at work clearing scrub along the towing path side. So, here are the two pictures for comparison. There is little to go on, only the two metal chutes, which have lost their wings, and the general shape of the canal.

Ordnance Survey 1882-83, reproduced with the permission of the National Libarary of Scotland.  The photographs were taken from north of Burntwood Road Bridge, close to the long building.

What has this to do with my kindred? Well, great grandfather John Dennis would have passed this spot on his way to and from work six days a week. He would set off from his home at Howdle’s Cottages, in the bottom right corner, going northwards, across the canal at Burntwood Road Bridge, and along the railway, perhaps hitching a ride, to The Plant pit (off the north of the map). On the black and white image John would have walked along the path in the bottom right corner and then along the railway on the far side of the canal, passing right to left behind the conveyor. Parts of the route are now inaccessible and there are few remnants of the mining industry that so dominated the local economy.

I suspect the black and white image is from the time when the collieries were closing in the early 1960s. Maybe that is why it was taken. There are some others from a similar time.

Evans the Boat

I thought that Evans would be the most difficult line to trace, as this is among the most frequent Welsh names. The boatman angle was going to make life more difficult. They moved about, sometimes as nomadic as Gypsies, and their children were baptised all over the place, but, at least, usually near to a canal. To some degree I was luckier than most, because, although it appears the earlier boatmen in Andrew’s Kindred lived on the water, later generations would live on land and have a fixed abode.

When Dad turned seventy we took a canal boat holiday. We hired a narrowboat, the sort one sees on the canal today, but this was a luxurious far cry from the existence of Continue reading “Evans the Boat”