By George!

Howdles Lane is named for George Howdle, who was proprietor of houses in in 1861.  But who was George?  Where did he come from?  And how did he end up in an obscure lane off Watling Street, Brownhills?  George is also related to my Dennis kindred.

In George the Eponymous I wrote: Continue reading “By George!”


Howdle’s Cottages: How old?!

howdles cottages os 1882 1883
It’s that plan again.  Howdles Cottages. Ordnance Survey, surveyed 1882, published 1883. Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.

In the 1871 census the six pairs of cottages, edged red above, were known as Howdle’s Row, but by 1881 had become Howdle’s Cottages.

When were Howdle’s Cottages built?

When they were demolished in about 1967 it was said that the cottages were about 200 years old. Martin Littler, who grew up in one of them recently reminded us that it was what people said at the time, both on BrownhillsBob’s Brownhills Blog and to me in person. But why build back then? Continue reading “Howdle’s Cottages: How old?!”

George II

Here is the third section of my exploration of the history of my old house and surroundings in Howdles Lane.  The series begins here.

In the previous post we saw how the land lay in 1882.  Little had changed by 1901 and 1915.  So the following maps give a good idea of what the area was like when the lease came up for auction in 1911. Continue reading “George II”

George the Eponymous

This is the second in my series about the deeds to my old house and the people named in them.  Here is a link to the first.  There is only one Howdles Lane in the world and it seems to have been named after George Howdle.


deeds 28 p1
Page one of the conveyance of 28 Howdles Lane to my father.


George Howdle (1799-1885)

The deeds say that George Howdle leased some land in the area from the Marquis of Anglesey in 1877. This did not include the land on which my old house stands; that was leased at the same time to John Dennis, my great grandfather.

A George Howdle is recorded in the 1851-1881 censuses for the area. He was born about 1799 at Hemingborough, Yorkshire. His occupation at these times was recorded as agricultural labourer (1851), proprietor of houses (1861), letter carrier (1871) and no occupation (1881).

In 1873 a George Howdle, of Walsall, owned an area of 4 acres 24 poles generating annual rental of £188 5s. George Howdle (snr) died in 1885 with an estate value £180 3s 10d. His son Henry lived in Howdles Lane (as it is known today) in 1891 and 1901 and was a well sinker.

George’s son, also George, born 1825, could also have been the lessee or inherited the lease, which was up for auction following his death on 12 May 1911. I have found no record of sale of the cottages in the period between 1850 and 1880 – there are no relevant news reports online from the 1860s. From this it seems reasonable to infer that George Howdle (snr) leased land from the Marquis, had the twelve cottages built, benefited from the rent, then passed them on to his son. However, it seems there is evidence, as yet unseen by me, that the cottages were much older, but I will return to that in future.

Almost coincident with the elder George’s death the Ordnance Survey mapped the area in 1882-1883.

howdles cottages os 1882 1883
Howdles Cottages. Ordnance Survey, surveyed 1882, published 1883. Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.

The map above is designed to cover future posts as well as this one.

Red:  The original 12 cottages belonging to George Howdle in 1861.

Yellow:  I think later censuses might have recorded these as Howdles Cottages.  I believe second great grandfather Joseph Carter lived on the inside of the bend, at the top of the map.

Blue:  Land developed for housing in 1960, leased sometime by both my great grandfather John Dennis and his son John, aka Jack.  Number 30 is at the northern end of the southern plot.

Green:  H Twist Cottages.  The northern pair remains as numbers 36 and 38.  Great grandfather John Dennis lived in the southernmost of the four from some time in the 1870s until his death in 1915.  His family is pictured below – I have used this before in John I Chapter II.

John Dennis (1852-1915) and family. Seated: John and Emma. Standing Harry, Jack, Lizzie and Sam. Original print kindly given by Martin Littler.

More to come …


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.

Joseph Digs Deep

This is a story of one family whose lives were turned upside down by the irresistible and unrelenting forces of modernisation; the mechanised production of crops and goods that enabled the growth of empire in nineteenth century Britain. Joseph’s family was just one of hundreds of thousands, millions even, that were compelled to move from the countryside to burgeoning industrial towns, cities and pit villages.

Countryside beginnings

Second great grandfather Joseph was baptised at Temple Balsall, Warwickshire, on 14 Sep 1830, son of William (a labourer) and Mary Carter, residents of Balsall Common. This was intriguing:  I thought “Knight’s Templar”, and I was right, but only because the manor was gifted to the order following their courageous exploits in the First Crusade to the Holy Land. Some time later, by Papal decree the land became the property of the Order of St John, aka the Knights Hospitaller. By the time Joseph came along the Hospitallers had long gone, and the laregly agricultural manor was in the hands of the Leveson family.

The church of St Mary was first built in about 1290 for the Knights Templar, but later fell into disrepair. It was then restored as a home for Lady Katherine Leveson. In 1849, however, it was restored by the famous architect Sir Gilbert Scott and returned to religious use. It became the parish church in 1863. Evidently Joseph was not baptised at St Mary.

Joseph’s father William was also born at Temple Balsall in 1792 about ten years prior to the Inclosure of 1802. This gives the impression of some stability, but this was a period of rapid change in farming practice, with the introduction of new methods and machinery that made for greater efficiency and higher yields. There would be loss of employment and riots in which machinery was destroyed: who knows, Joseph or, more likely, his father might even have wielded a sledgehammer or torched the barn where some new-fangled machinery slept.

It seems obvious that Joseph’s parents, William and Mary, moved around this part of Warwickshire quite a bit and got rid of their children pretty early. As farm workers they were probably quite poorly off and children had to earn their corn. The parish records show William’s and Mary’s children being christened at Packwood, Baddesley Clinton, Temple Balsall (2), Berkswell, Temple Balsall, Balsall Street, and Balsall (maybe same place). I went to Balsall Common and Berkswell in Summer 2005, but there were no related Carters with memorials in the churchyard; still, it was a baking day out in the countryside, my search evoking Red looking for the box in Shawshank Redemption. In 1841 they lived at Berkswell Common (misheard?), where William’s occupation was “ag lab”. 9 year old Joseph was there, too, with siblings Mary, James, Catherine, Charles and Eliza.

By 1851 William and wife Mary were at Dockers Lane, Berkswell, where they remained through 1861 and 1871 and probably until the ends of their days in 1871 and 1883. All children had gone.

The Brickmakers Arms stood to the south of The Railway Inn, just about opposite the spot height at 370.   The Carters live further south, perhaps where the road bends.  Ordnance Survey reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.


I have not been able to trace Joseph in the 1851 census, but by 1861 he was at Brick Hill Lane, Hampton-in-Arden, still “ag lab”, with wife Mary A (Blythe), whom he had married in 1859 at his home parish of Berkswell. With them was a 4 year old son named William, but I have not been able to find a birth as either Carter or Blythe. The entry of marriage describes Mary Ann Blythe as a spinster, so there is no previous marriage to provide a clue as to William’s birth name, so I have given up on that one. There is some indication that he died later in 1861.

Berkswell, St John the Baptist

By 1871 the family had moved to Stechford, now a suburb of Birmingham, but then a farming community. The move had been recent as their last child, Mary Ann, was born at Balsall. Joseph and two 12 year old sons were agricultural labourers. I believe their home was where Birmingham International Airport is now.


Then came a sea change. When, exactly, is hard to tell, but by 1879, when grandson Enoch was born, Joseph had moved his family to Brownhills, and had become a coal miner. In the 1881 census the Carters are recorded at Howdle’s Cottages, at the end of a row of single storey dwellings of indeterminate age. Sons Joseph, George and Daniel were also coal miners. With them was a grandson: Enoch, aged 2, the son of their unmarried daughter Ellen, who was 19. The cottages stood in what is now Howdles Lane – there is only one such in the World, so it is easy enough to find. Of the 16 households at Howdles Cottages, three were respectively well-sinker, 82 year old widower no longer in work, labourer (who probably worked at the pit), and 13 coal miners. Just 3 were born locally.

The Heart of England Way near Berkswell.

So, sometime in his forties Joseph had brought his family from the wide open fields and woodlands of rural Warwickshire to a cramped cottage in Brownhills, set in a land of few trees, a land blackened by coal mining and its spoil heaps and steam engines, and work in the dark, low-roofed, damp heat of the bowels of the Earth. That must have been some shock! But it was probably his only means of supporting his family. It is known that son Daniel worked at Walsall Wood Colliery, and it seems likely that Joseph worked there, too. The colliery was sunk in 1874, so maybe that was when they moved, finding their traditional occupations as farm hands in less demand.

In 1891 the Carters occupied the same cottage, but now had the responsibility of looking after orphaned Enoch (12) and his younger sister Eunice, aged just 2 years. Eunice would turn out to be a handful for Joseph and Mary Ann – her sad story is told in a piece I submitted to Brownhills Bob, who was kind enough to post it with the heading Eunice the Menace.

In 1901 Joseph’s occupation was “highwayman labr”, presumably mending roads. Grandson Enoch and a boarder were coal miners. No occupation is given for either Mary Ann or granddaughter Eunice, aged 12, not even “scholar”.

In 1910 old age got the better of 80 year old Joseph, leaving Mary Ann, now 73, to look after Enoch and Eunice.

The widow Carter remained at Howdles Road (as she wrote in the 1911 census), along with the two grandchildren and another lodger. At the grand old age of 89 heart disease claimed her life on 1 August 1926.

Enoch never married, but lived to the ripe old age of 90. Eunice was left to fend for herself and seems to have vanished without trace.

howdles cottages os 1883.png
Where Joseph and Mary Ann would see out their lives.  Ordnance Survey 1883, reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.  I think the Carters lived in the last cottage on the inside of the bend.

Although we no longer rely on wells and hand pumps for drinking water, the local supplier South Staffs Water exploits the Lichfield Aquifer.

When the supply of water in England and Wales was privatised in 1989 one of my aunts said she would never accept privatised water, yet she had never used water from a public supply!


As far as this blog goes, this is my first foray into the family Carter. My sister did a (long lost) primary school project on family history, which prompted mother to assemble various pictures and notes, largely gained from her auntie Gertie. For a long time I had given these up for lost, but, as is so often the case, I was looking for something else and happened upon an envelope that had somehow been shuffled to the back of a bookshelf.

I will come back to this, but, for now, I will focus on a news cutting. It is unfortunate that it is not attributed, but it still has some value in understanding the life of my great grandfather Daniel Carter (1865-1950). It is also a reminder that we should not believe everything we read in the press!  A transcription follows this somewhat faded image.

Source unknown

Founder member of Brownhills Society

  Well known as an exhibitor at local flower shows and a founder member if Brownhills Horticultural Society, Mr Daniel Carter of [45] Chapel-street, Brownhills, died on Wednesday week, after a short illness.
Mr Carter, who was 85, was born at Walsall Wood, and began work at the local colliery, where he stayed for 50 years, most of his time being spent on the bank.
He retired 15 years ago and devoted a great deal of his spare time to his hobby of gardening, and continued to grow both flowers (especially crysanthemums) and vegetables.
He was a member of the Walsall Wood Darby and Joan Club , and of the Brownhills club.
His second wife died five years ago and he leaves two sons and four daughters. There are also 18 grandchildren.
The funeral service at Ogley Hay parish church on Saturday was conducted by the Rev. A. Halse (priest in charge of St. John’s, Heath Hayes).
The mourners were Mrs. Jones (daughter), Mr. Brown (son-in-law), Mrs. Scholey (daughter), Mr. and Mrs. Hastilow, Mr. and Mrs. Taylor (sons-in-law and daughters), Mrs. Spendlove (stepdaughter), Mrs. Micock and Mrs. Jackson.
The bearers were Leslie, Lawrence, Kenneth and Derreck Jones (grandsons).
Floral tributes were sent from the family and from friends.

The mourners in more detail:

Mrs Bertha Jones, Mr Edwin Brown (my maternal grandfather), Mrs Winnifred Scholey, Mr John and Mrs Gladys Hastilow, Mr William “Bill” and Mrs Gertrude “Gertie” Taylor, Mrs Mycock (this would be a relative of Daniel’s second wife, Louisa), Mrs Spendlove would be her daughter, and Mrs Joan Jackson was a next door neighbour.  The bearers were sons of Bertha Jones.

Daniel died at 45 Chapel Street, where he shared the home of his daughter Florence and her husband Edwin Brown. The causes of death were (a) myocarditis and (b) senile decay. Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle, which can have a range of causes, but Daniel was an old man who lived a hard and energetic life.

Daniel Carter at 45 Chapel Street, Brownhills, Staffordshire (at the time).


Daniel was in fact born at Balsall, Warwickshire on 5 Jan 1865. At the time of the 1871 census the family was at Stechford, Warwickshire, where Daniel’s father and two older brothers were agriculural labourers. By 1881 they had moved to Howdles Cottages, Brownhills, Staffordshire, where they lived in a row of semi-detached cottages. I remember the old cottages as a child; they were demolished in about 1967. Even then there was no running water; that had to be pumped from a borehole.