Chapel Street, Pelsall in the 1930's
Pelsall's Wesleyan Chapel at the village end of Chapel Street
Back in July 2003, Mr Reg Neville sent me the following article which I published in Pelsall Times Issue 22.
My parents, sister and I moved from Church Road to Chapel Street in about 1931. At that time there was no made up road, the street was 'unadopted', that is, the local parish council had not assumed responsibility for its upkeep. Apart from a few rocks about two feet apart there was no demarcation between the footpath and 'hoss-road', and I have clear memories of my father and Mr Derry, near neighbours and workmates pushing their bikes along Chapel Street rather than attempting to ride them on their way to and from work at the pit.
Lighting for the whole of the street was provided by a single gas lamp at the school end, the rest was in darkness.
However, a further lamp was added later at the point where the gully alongside No.27 leads into Church Road.
One day every week the 'gas man' came along on his bicycle with his short ladder and opened up the window of the lantern to replace the gas mantle if needed and also to rewind the clock which provided the on/off setting for the gas to mantle which was ignited by a continually burning pilot light. Continually burning unless 'accidentally' extinguished by mischievous youngsters.
All of the homes in the street had a gas supply, both for cooking and lighting and most had a coin operated slot meter. Pennies sometimes being short, most homes had one or two foreign coins which would work just as well and when the time for meter emptying came round, the collector, who gave a discount of a penny in the shilling would return 'foreigners' as part of the discount, there being no intention to cheat.
With the agreement of a majority of householders and electricity cable was laid in about 1933 and connected to this payment of £2, a sum equal to a weeks wages for most, but the improved lighting and the chance to own an 'all mains' radio was welcomed by all, especially the children who had the weekly task of carrying a wet battery (an accumulator) for the battery operated wireless set, to and from Asher Lycett's where it was recharged at a cost of sixpence (2 1/2 pence).
At the Chapel end of the street next but one to the school where the Millard family lived, there was a bicycle shop owned by Mr Phillips. The shop sold cycles and cycle parts and carried out repairs and was in the charge of Mr Craddock who lived a few houses along from the school.
A neighbour of his was Mr Richard Lloyd, better known as 'piggy Dick'. This was no reflection of Mr Lloyd or his habits, but simply to the fact that he kept pigs as the rear of his house.
For some reason, Mr Lloyd had a vendetta with the prominent Pelsall family, the Barnett's and when one of them died, Edward Barnett died in about 1934, and the funeral service was being held at the Wesleyan Chapel across the street, Mr Lloyd hung a union jack from his bedroom window.
Some of the late Mr Barnett's family took offence at this and by using a ladder took it down, only for Mr Lloyd to replace it with, some say a sheet, others a nightshirt.
Life was never dull in Chapel Street.
Notwithstanding the close proximity of Mr Lloyds pigs, next door but one was Wrights Fish and Chip Shop, in reality a lean to shed on the side of the house. A 'tuppenny' fish and a 'pennorth' of chips was high living in those days.
The lean to shed which used to house Wrights Fish and Chip Shop can seen above
For those unable to afford this treat, Mrs Wright often gave away bags of 'batters', the fat rich batter crumbs which accumulated in the fish frying pan.
A short distance further along the same side was the larger home of Mr Phillips, the cycle shop owner, who had a similar shop in Bradford Place, Walsall.
Next door lived Mr Ivey, a teacher at the Wesleyan School and then Mr and Mrs Candlin with their daughter Edith.
Crossing to the other side, at Number 25 lived our next door neighbours, the Church family. Mrs Church was the midwife for the district and at Number 27 were the Derry's.
On the other side of the gully, two houses along lived Mr and Mrs Hulse and their son Kenneth. They were prominent members of the parish church. Mr Hulse was a painter and decorator by trade.
Mr Phillips, the blind piano tuner lived next door, and except for two more houses, this was the end of the inhabited part of the street, the rest considered as a dirt track with on one side the 'black tins' a corrugated fence bordering the Wilkes family at the back of their large house in Church Road. The orchard pear trees could be reached through loose joins in the fencing and although pears could be bought five for a halfpenny at the house, those gained through openings in the 'black tins' were preferable.
The last old house in the row can be seen in the photograph above
No commentary of Chapel Street would be complete without the mention of its most outstanding characters, Boaz Richardson or Mr Boaz as he was known by all the children and his equally famous pony, 'Billy Boaz'. Mr Boaz had a son called Howard who was a building contractor, responsible for many of the semi's erected in and around the village which date from around that time.
Mr Boaz was at the time retired and owned a small two wheeled trap or dog cart, which was pulled by 'Billy Boaz', a small pony, that is when he could be rounded up from happily grazing on the common and it required the efforts of Mr Boaz and not a few children before he could be cornered, sometimes after a chase as far as Heath End.
Once harnessed to the trap Mr Boaz would set out on his social or business calls.
The duo were never more prominent than on great state occasions, such as VE day or Royal Coronations or Jubiliee's. The pair would travers the village, Mr Boaz carrying a muzzle loaded musket. From a powder charge and after pouring this down the muzzle, he would ram home copious wads of paper which he would drive home using a ramrod. Then at a prominent place somewhere on the common he would discharge this with a mighty bang as his contribution to the festivities.
On one occasion which is still remembered by many, he was over enthusiastic with the charge of powder or maybe it was the first shot of the day, but standing at the back of the trap he fired the musket. Not being forewarned of what was about to happen, Billy Boaz leaped high into the air and took off down the common leaving his owner upended on the grass. However, it did not deter him and after successfully recovering his pony and trap, Mr Boaz carried on with his display, much to the enjoyment of the villagers. Mr Boaz was also the owner of a penny farthing bicycle and again, on occasion he would delight villagers by a display.
The last old house in the row on the opposite side can be seen above
Explosions also took place in Chapel Street whenever there was a general election.
Those I remember from the 1930's were held in October, close enough to Bonfire night to afford some of the more demonstrative of the partisan electorate a noisy means of making their views known and livening up the political process at the same time.
The constituency of Lichfield and Tamworth of which Pelsall formed part regularly returned a Conservative member to Parliament. Pelsall with its mining background was almost 100% Labour.
The Conservatives used as a Committee room, the front room of Mr and Mrs Simpson which was the first house along from the polling station, the Wesleyan School.
Next door was the Labour Committee room, and from the early evenings of polling day crowds began to assemble outside.
With the arrival of every Labour car, cheers went up and for every Tory car there were loud and persistent boos and catcalls.
The last hour before polling closed became more noisy and demonstrative.
There were hasty 'whip rounds' to raise funds to get fireworks from Boulton's Paper Shop and these were placed beneath the Simpson's front door step. It should be noted that fireworks at that time carried a much bigger explosive charge and made a bigger bang in those days.
The result was the complete displacement of the step to the accompaniment of loud cheers and the singing of the Red Flag.
The evening invariably ended with the removal one by one of all the front window panels of the Simpsons by stoning whilst next door remained unscathed.
With the declaration of the result, the next day was a foregone conclusion and the re glazing of the windows and replacement of the step, Chapel Street resumed its normal friendly and peaceful state.
These are just a few of my memories of a street in which I spent much of my early life. Thanks are due to two contemporaries and near neighbours of that time, Sidney and Lewis Derry for memory jogging and also for information regarding Boaz Richardson's business.
It is nearly twenty years since I last visited Pelsall and on my last walk in Chapel Street, I had the distinct impression that the street had become shorter and the houses smaller.
I'm glad to say that once again with time in the distance, Chapel Street had reverted to the way I will always remember it with affection.
If you would like to share your memories of Chapel Street, Pelsall, why not drop me a line.