Billy the Special

Uncle Bill Taylor, or Billy to his wife, was an “uncle” by virtue of marrying Mom’s aunty Gertie, sometime known to locals as “Nurse Taylor”.  I first knew them as a small child when we visited them in the back lane, or Chapel Street.  Aunty, as Mom called her, had been a nurse after leaving school at the age of fourteen, working at the Sister Dora (General) Hospital in Walsall, but, as was the rule at the time, was forced to give up when she married.  Gertie would for many tears tend to locals’ minor injuries, patching them up with plasters, bandages and boiled sweets as necessary. Continue reading “Billy the Special”


Joan Jackson: Artist

Followers may recall this painting of number 43 Chapel Street, Brownhills.

chapel street 43 (640x452)
Rear view of 43 Chapel Street, Brownhills, by Joan Jackson.

This original oil painting was based on a photograph, probably black and white, taken before Joan and her husband were forced to move after the house was condemned in about 1967.

Recently, I received a request from Wendy Cooke, who wrote: Continue reading “Joan Jackson: Artist”

A Christmas Wedding

Edwin and Florence Brown
Edwin and Florence Brown.  Sadly, I don’t know of a surviving wedding photograph.

Ebenezer Scrooge thought it very inconvenient to give his clerk Bob Cratchit a whole day off on Christmas Day. (If you have not seen the movie “Scrooge” in which the title character is played by the wonderful Alistair Sim, you have missed something special.) By the time my mother’s parents were ready to wed things had changed, but Christmas Day was still one of the few days off work for a coal miner in wartime. So they married on Christmas Day ninety nine years ago today.


By that time there were ten bank holidays. For previous generations holidays were few and far between and weddings on Christmas Day were popular. For a time they were known as “penny weddings” – the couple had to pay a penny for the privilege – note the stamp on the Certificate of Marriage. Why they chose Christmas Day cannot now be known and they will almost certainly be the last of Andrew’s Kindred to be married on this day.

Anyway, there are better things to be doing!

Reading with Mother

Recap from last time. This is a transcript, with analysis, of handwritten notes by my mother, Barbara Dennis, in about 1972.  Again, mother’s words in italics.

Grandad also made a lot of wine: potato, parsnip, elderberry, dandelion, coltsfoot. I remember helping him gathering bags and bags of flowers and also yarrow growing on the pit mounds and on the common.

I like to make wine, though I stick mainly to blackberry with a bramley apple and a few home-grown black currants thrown in for a mellower flavour. Sometimes I use kits like Wilkinson’s cabernet sauvignon. I wonder if there is some genetic link or whether just knowing of the possibility led me to try. I remember from childhood that mother, as well as her mother’s recipe book – she was a cook at a large house in her days of service – had Daniel’s wine recipe book, but I have no idea where either went after she died back in 1982. I reckon publication of a genuine Edwardian recipe book would be quite lucrative if released in the run up to Christmas.

Oenology corner at Common or Garden Wines

Part 2

In 1937 he married Louisa Mycock on February 11 at Walsall Wood Church age 72 years. He went to live at 27 Brooklands Road. Mrs Mycock already owned this house, a double fronted house. One downstairs room was used as a fish and chip shop. He still carried on digging the allotment at Stonnall in Cartersfield Lane [and] also dug and planted at rear of home; kept pigs and fowl. Later he was a gravedigger at the cemetery which was nearly opposite 27 Brooklands Road.

The entry of marriage confirms. I remember mother telling me that she was put to work peeling potatoes for the chip shop and was rewarded with a portion of chips. David Oakley recalls the chip shop.   Thanks for your comment, David.

Lived at Brook Cottage, Hilton?

Yes. He was there in the 1911 Census.

Gertrude Carter was 11 years old when they went to live at Leigh Cottage, Stonnall. Mrs Mycock lived at the school house which was at the other end of the road.



A mental map showing Leigh Cottage in Stonnall. The road top right (heading north) is Wall Heath Lane. Also the Ordnance Survey mapping, surveyed 1921, for comparison; reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.

Daniel Carter was also a newsagent besides digging his large garden and allotment and full time job and papers had to be delivered to quite a large area – from the top of Castle Hill to the top of Shire Oak, down Sandhills to Barracks Lane, including Lynn Lane and Upper Stonnall. Gertrude Carter did deliver quite a lot of these for her father. This was during the war when there was a shortage of younger men.

This was during the First World War. Gertrude would have been 11 years old in 1913-14, when they moved to Leigh Cottage; they were still there in 1926 when Daniel’s mother died. When Gertrude was married in 1928 she was living at Watling Street, Brownhills: this could have been 123 or 47 Watling Street, where Gertie and Bill were living in 1939 and 1944. Later they lived at 45 Chapel Street, where I remember visiting as a child on the way home from school.

Daniel Carter and his wife Sarah Elizabeth (Greatrex) outside Leigh Cottage, Stonnall, Staffordshire.

He left Walsall Wood when his wife died and went to live at 45 Chapel Street. 27 Brooklands Road was sold and the money divided Mrs Mycock’s nine children (see will). He lived at 45 Chapel Street for 5 years. He died there in August 1950.

He did indeed die at 45 Chapel Street in 1950. I have a copy of the will – Daniel did not benefit and I recall mother saying this caused a certain amount of ill-feeling.

Mrs Joan Jackson remembers that he always used to say ‘[if] I can hear Brownhills clock striking it is going to rain; the wind is in the right direction’.

This is nonsense. I don’t say Daniel never said this, but I have studied meteorology, and the prevailing winds that bring rain blow in from the Atlantic Ocean, generally from the south west or west, which would carry the sound of the bell away. Southerly winds, that would carry the sound of the bell, cross western Europe and sometimes north Africa, and tend to bring dry weather.

Daniel was evidently an interesting man, someone I would like to invite to that imaginary dinner party, along with other long dead people like John Harrison (Longitude), Harold Lloyd, Dorothy Paterson (pioneering nurse), and Queen Boudica, with Professor Michael Wood to translate.  Would they get on?  Imagine Boudica trying to get her head around Harold on that high rise building site!  Hmmm …

Reading with Mother

This is a transcript, with analysis, of handwritten notes by my mother, Barbara Dennis, in about 1972. Her writing in italics. I think they resulted from her brother Reginald visiting some relatives in the Weston Heath area (near the junction of the Watling Street A5 and Newport Road A41) and Albrighton, between Wolverhampton and Telford. Further information in Andrew’s Kindred. Other information, especially about Stonnall, came from discussion with her aunt Gertrude “Gertie” Taylor (nee Carter).

Often people’s recollections are unreliable. Some will swear that black is white even when presented with incontrovertible evidence. Other memories are victims of time or subject to embellishment. Still others are interpolations to make sense of seemingly conflicting “facts”. It is essential, therefore, to check one’s own and others’ tales of yore against the facts that are available. In this case the notes my mother assembled from her own and relatives’ memory are remarkably accurate.

Mother’s handwriting was never the most elegant! She was left-handed and had been forced at school to use her right hand, on pain of a ruler across the knuckles if caught using her left. Today, such physical punishment would lead to the instant dismissal of the teacher, but adults could get away with such cruelty in the 1930s. Here is a sample:


Continue reading “Reading with Mother”


I have a theory that if everyone whose nineteenth century forebears were of white English descent had a portrait of all four of their second great grandfathers at least one would resemble to some noticeable degree Charles Darwin. Naturally, this can never be proven, but, anyway, here is mine, though I accept the whiskers are less impressive.

Second great grandfather William Greatrex in the honeysuckle arbor at Leigh Cottage, Stonnall, Staffordshire.

Continue reading “Darwinesque”