All That Was Left Was the

Front Door Step

The Block and Chopper (as it was known in 2004) can be seen in the centre of the photograph above

Back in 2004 when I was publishing the Pelsall Times magazine I wrote an article about a planning application that had been made to Walsall Council by Wolverhampton and Dudley Breweries.  They were applying to for three apartments to be built on land next the Queen's which at that time was known as the Block and Chopper.

The area to the right of the Block and Chopper had been barren for a considerable number of years, so long in fact that it was difficult to remember what had been there before.

Above: The front door step and fragments of a wall

Out of interest, I went to take a look at where the article was referring to.  On the surface of it there was no evidence that anything had ever existed there before, then I saw it.

A very old and well worn front door step.  I thought it was rather strange that it should have been left behind.  It clearly must have belonged to an old building which must have existed there for some time.

The Front Door Step

I was intrigued, wondering what must have once existed her, so I decided to consult the 1881 census for clues.

It appeared from my research that the building which occupied this space was known as 'Snapes Buildings'.  This building was occupied at that time by three families.  The first family mentioned on this census living at this address is the Rochelle family headed by George Rochelle.  He lived there with is wife Mary and children, George Benton, Florence Mary and Emma.

Next door lived James Ford, a coal miner, Hannah Ford, his daughter and Alice Burgwin.

Next to this family lived Joseph Rowley, who was a coal miner, his wife Rosetta and children William, Joseph, Sarah Jane, Phoebe, Nellie and Henry.

The property to which the front door step belonged is listed as '...Buildings' which was occupied by Henry Hooker a 49 year old coal miner and his wife Jane Hooker, their 24 year old son, John who was an iron worker and their boarder, John Griffiths, a 48 year old ironworker.

After published what I had found out, I asked for anyone with any further information to come forward.

Henry Hooker and John Hooker both of whom worked at Pelsall Iron and Coal Company

Shortly after the article was published, I was contacted by Mr Brian Fellows who was not only able to shed considerable light on the history of the front door step, but the attached properties too.  

In his letter, he wrote:

I was born in 1937 at No 5 Station Road, Pelsall and that front door step was at the entrance to No 4 and 5 Station Road.

I lived at No 5 Station Road from 1937 to 1965 with my parents and two younger brothers.  I married in 1965 and moved into my own property in another part of the village.  Not long afterwards, No 1 - 5 were demolished and the remaining residents rehoused.

I pass that door step most days, it always invokes something of the past on every occasion.

Mr Fellows went on to say that when he lived there, this row of houses was occupied by no less than 24 people.

Mr Fellows recalled that the Taylors lived at No 2, the Dalloways at No 3, and the Kelly's at No 4.

Back then the location in which these properties were set was entirely different.  In his time, all that could be seen outside the rear of the house was field, Railswood Nurseries and Roe's Farm.

Mr Snape, the butcher used the fields for grazing his livestock.  Pigeon flyers used to meet there also.  Mr Fellows' father, a pigeon flyer himself was the Secretary of the Pigeon Flying Club, the Headquarters of which was in Church Road.

Mr Fellows' job as a youngster was to collect the empty baskets in an old pram once the pigeons had taken flight.

Al this time, Pelsall Station was fully functional and very busy.

The Queen's and its neighbours to the right in the 1800's

Pelsall Station, prior to its closure in the 1960's

As youngsters, Mr Fellows and his counterparts would stand on the footbridge above the trains and aim for the chimneys with clods if grass only for them to shoot back out again.

With the pits and foundries still in operation at this time, men used to gather in front of Croxall's (by the post office and the Ocean Fish bar) for their lift. It was very busy at that time in the morning

Croxall's can be seen to the left in the photograph above

Dudson's cottage, which some readers may recall was behind Dukes'.

Mr Fellows recalled that as youngsters they would wait for the baker to go home, (he always left the door open) and then nip in to get a fresh loaf of bread.  Then they would sit in front of the war memorial to tuck into the warm loaf.

At about 9 or 10pm kids used to grab a chunk of bread and jam and a bottle of tea and take it over the fields.

Mr Fellows remembered one of the bonfires held to celebrate the end of WWII.  On this occasion, youngsters climbed up the gas lamp that stood in the village centre at the time, to take a better look. The bonfire had burned so hot that it had burnt a hole in the road and a great view of this could be had from climbing up the gas lamp.

Returning to the houses, Mr Fellows said that they were very typical of their time, 2 up and 2 down, with their out houses to the rear of them and a downstairs toilet.

Bathing at No 5 took place in the tin bath in front of the fire.  Mr Fellows recalled that at this time, there were no pit baths and so when his Dad had finished a hard day's work at Harrison's No 3, he would have to wait until he got home to have a bath.

In addition to this, Mr Fellows also told me at the time that to get to where he worked in the pit, his father would have to walk two miles underground before starting his shift.

With regards to our front door step, Mr Fellows said that the reason for the extensive wear was not just due to the constant passing of feet.  The step was made of York stone, which was highly valued particularly for its sharpening properties.

Mr Fellows recalled that this front doorstep became somewhat of a meeting place for a multitude of Pelsall folk who would specifically come along to sharpen their carving knives, utensils, axes and other tools, which may well explain why this front door step was left behind.

Station Road and where the front door step once sat, as it is today