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