The History of Wollaston (Group) HOW
Researching the History of Wollaston
|Who is HOW? The History of Wollaston (Group) - HOW - was formed in September 1998 by local people with a shared interest in the history and development of their village.
When and Where does HOW meet? HOW meets twice a month, on the second and fourth Tuesday evenings, at 7.30pm in Stepalong Shoes at 151 Bridgnorth Road in Wollaston. All are welcome - why not come along and find out what we are getting up to, and where we are going in our research.
Wollaston Church 150. HOW is helping to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the opening and consecration of St James's Church. HOW will be staging a special exhibition in the church hall on Saturday 11 September 2010 between 10.00 and 16.00. Following this that part of the exhibition relating to the church will be on display in the church from Sunday 12 September 2010 to Sunday 19 September 2010, open between 14.00 and 16.00 each day.
HOW's third book - a history of St James's Church on the occasion of its 150th anniversary - has been published! Written by Janet Byard-Jones, the illustrated book sells for just £3. Copies are available from the church and Stepalong Shoes.
HOW's book A History of Wollaston is the first detailed History of Wollaston and was published on 9 March 2004. The book sells for £16.99, and there are just 2,000 copies available. It has 224 pages and 472 illustrations, including 16 pages of full colour. The book is available from Stepalong Shoes in Wollaston, and from local bookshops and libraries. Alternately you can order one by post from: History of Wollaston Group, 151 Bridgnorth Road, Wollaston, Stourbridge DY8 3NU - Tel: 01384 372205. The total cost, including first class post and packaging, is £20.80. Cheques should be made payable to 'The History of Wollaston Group.'
A History of Wollaston Schools For its second book HOW group member Janet Byard-Jones has researched the history of Wollaston Schools - the old St James's School in the village. The book tells the history of the schools from their opening in 1859 until they closed in 1984. Hardbound, and illustrated with many black & white and colour pictures, the 326 paged book is £15 and available from both Stepalong Shoes in Wollaston and Books Unlimited in Stourbridge. The book was launched by Stourbridge MP Lynda Waltho on Friday 14 September 2007 in Wollaston Church Hall at 19.30. HOW also restaged its exhibition on the Village's History in the Church Hall on that Friday and also on Saturday 15 September 2007.
Peter Skidmore (1937-2004) Many people across Stourbridge and the Black Country were shocked to hear of the sudden death of local historian and HOW founder member Peter Skidmore on Thursday 12 August 2004 at the age of 66.
He was born in Pontefract, Yorkshire, on 22 September 1937. After studying history at university, Peter went on to teach the subject in secondary schools, something which brought him and his wife to the Black Country in 1965. Until his retirement in 1992, Peter taught history at Brierley Hill Grammar School, which became Crestwood School when the local education authority changed to the comprehensive system, and later at Kingswinford, where he was a deputy head. He cared passionately about his subject, and in particular about the need for whatever historical event was being discussed to match their broader context, whether that be in local, regional or national terms. His approach left its mark on many of his students, one of whom was Dr David Cox, the Editor of The Blackcountryman magazine, who said: ‘It’s a great shame. He was an inspirational teacher and he'll be sadly missed.’
After his retirement, Peter developed a growing interest in the history of the Black Country, and that of Stourbridge, and of Wollaston in particular. He contributed a number of articles to The Blackcountryman and to the Black Country Bugle, and in 2003 his book, The Civic Heraldry of the Black Country, was published. This charted the origins, meaning and symbolism depicted in the various coats of arms adopted by the many Black Country Boroughs over the last 150 years or so. Peter also served as Treasurer to a number of organisations, including the Black Country Society, the History of Wollaston Group and the Skidmore Society, and he was also a committee member of the Friends of Dudley Archives & Local History Service. Past Black Country Society Chairman Stan Hill said: ‘Peter was a hard working officer of the Black Country Society. He was meticulous in every aspect of his work and life. He will be greatly missed.’
A founder member of HOW in 1998, Peter was a leading participant in all of the various exhibitions, displays and commemorative events they have organised to date. His skills and experience as a historian came to the fore during the research and writing of the Group’s book, A History of Wollaston, for which Peter undertook a great deal of the original research and wrote entire chapters, plus sizeable sections of others.
HOW Chairman, Dr Paul Collins, said: ‘Everyone is stunned by Peter’s sudden death. Just two days before he died he was at a Group meeting firing everybody up with news of his latest piece of research. He had so much enthusiasm and a real passion for what he was doing. Peter was a lovely person: kind, generous with his time, and tremendously supportive. In the last year or so we had spent more hours than I care to think about working to put our book together. I find it very hard to believe that I shall never see him again.’
HOW's Millennium Exhibition Every weekend in September 2000 HOW organised an exhibition on the History of Wollaston, which was held in Wollaston Church Hall. Members of HOW were on hand to answer any questions and to note any comments or suggestions visitors may make. Over 600 people visited the Exhibition, which proved most successful. Many of these people offered us additional information and/or photographs or other items. A lot of HOW’s time has been spent subsequently in following these leads up.
HOW's Thanks too... All of HOW's work to date has been greatly aided by the receipt of grants from both Dudley MBC and from the Millennium Awards for All scheme.
Website updated This website has been updated and now includes an Events Calendar. Click on this to see what HOW is up to and the dates of its meetings and other activities. The last update was on Tuesday 18 September 2007.
The Search for Wollaston Hall? A lot of HOW's efforts are being directed towards finding Wollaston Hall, the village's former Manor House, which was dismantled and sent to America at the end of 1926. To date HOW have been able to establish the basic truth of this event, and may be on the track of some of the panelling and other items from inside the Hall - but where's the Hall itself? Can you help us with this?
Our latest leads suggest that the Hall may be in either Salt Lake City, Utah, or the State of Nevada - watch this space!
Wollaston Hall Panelling Confirmed! 'Linenfold' panelling from Wollaston Hall has been confirmed as being in The Gallery at the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House at Grosse Point in Michigan. Go to their website: www.fordhouse.org, take the house tour and look on The Gallery page.
Wollaston Hall found? No, not that one, Wollaston’s other Hall, the village one that used to stand at the end of Meriden Avenue, where the Hawkeswood’s later built their house. This was the centre of village activities until the late 1920s, when, like the other Hall, it was dismantled and moved elsewhere. Unlike the other Hall, the Village one didn’t go so far, and, thanks to local resident Ken Rabey, we now know where to as well. Its in Drayton, near Belbroughton, next to the Robin Hood pub there.
Breakthrough in Hereford? Members of HOW are making regaular trips to Hereford Record Office where documents relating to Wollaston dating back to the reign of King Edward VI have been located. These give a fascinating insight into the life of the old village of Wollaston, especially in the late 17th c.
HOW on TV In January 2001 HOW Chairman Dr Paul Collins bombarded historical and archaeological societies in Eastern Pennsylvania with e-mails in the quest for Wollaston Hall. He received many hundreds of replies, but all to no avail. Nonetheless, articles are still appearing in magazines and journals in the USA, so its fingers crossed. All of this e-mail activity attracted the attention of the producers of a series of programmes on the use of the Internet for the Open University. As a result of this HOW featured prominently in Well Connected, one of the programmes in the series. Filming took place last spring. TV Presenter Mariella Frostrup was in Wollaston on 27 March 2001 looking at Apley Road - the former site of Wollaston Hall - and other places around the Church and various other locations in the village.
The Open University programme featuring the HOW Group and its research into Wollaston was screened on Saturday 15 September 2001 at 9.00am on BBC-2. Did you see it? Lots of people did, and HOW have been contacted by several of them congratulating us on the programme and offering new leads to information and photographs. Some have also given new leads to the whereabouts of Wollaston Hall! As the programme was for the Open University, it will doubtless be repeated a few times, so look out for when it is on again - we'll try to keep you posted on the date and time.
TV Programme Repeat The Open University 'Well Connected' programme, featuring HOW's work was shown again on Saturday 23 March 2002 on BBC-2 between 09.00 and 09.30. This has again brought in some interesting and useful e-mails and some new leads on the whereabouts of Wollaston Hall. Did you see the programme? If not, copies are available. Check with Stepalong Shoes.
Blowing our own Bugle? HOW's requests for information are forming a regular feature of the weekly editions of The Black Country Bugle. Buy your copy each week and find out what we are looking for next?
Kinver Light Railway 100 Thursday 5 April 2001 saw the 100th anniversary of the public opening of the Kinver Light Railway (KLR), an electric tramway than connected The Fish with Kinver via Wollaston. As well as being an important tourist attraction in its day, the KLR was important in the growth of Wollaston as it brought thousands of people through the village, some of whom undoubtedly thought what a nice place it was and bought either a house or a plot of land on which to build one. Although it last ran on 8 February 1930, the KLR is fondly remembered by many elderly people and has entered the folklore locally. HOW did not feel that this important anniversary should go unmarked, so members of the group, plus a representative of the Kinver Historical Society, met at The Fish at 7.00pm and walked the route of the line - up to Wollaston, through the village to The Ridge, and down to The Stewponey, where a toast was drunk to the KLR.
KLR Walk - 16th May 2001 Members of HOW led another Black Country Society Summer Walk along the same route as the above walk on Wednesday 16 May. An estimated 86 people came along and shared a little of the history of the KLR. The rain that had fallen most of the day also held off!
How can you help HOW? HOW members are still chasing various bits of information, and we are particularly keen to learn more about the following:-
- Memories of Wollaston during World War II, especially of Prisoners of War from the POW camp on Studley Gate;
- Memories of Wollaston in the 1980s and 1990s;
- Wollaston Pubs, especially the Eagle Tavern in King Street, The Swan in Mamble Road, The Rifleman’s Arms in Wood Street, and The Albion in Bridgnorth Road (Withy Bank);
- Wollaston businesses and industries.
Buffalo Bill in Wollaston! Hard as it is to imagine, that great legend of the Wild West Buffalo Bill actually brought his Wild West Show to Wollaston. The year was 1904 and the event left such an indelible impression on people that some could recall it 50 years later as though it were yesterday. He arrived on three trains at Stourbridge Junction and processed the 800 performers and 500 horses in the show through the town to Wollaston. He even had lunch at The Plough! Two performances were given - afternoon and evening - on 28 April 1904 on a field in Eggington Farm. Today this is the land between Meriden Avenue and the village side of Bridle Road, where The Crescent, the shops and the houses along Bridgnorth Road are now. The evening show was lit by electricity. HOW have a ticket from the evening show, but are keen to find any other souvenirs or memories from the day. It is known that programmes and pendants were sold. Do you have one in your family you could lend to HOW?
Buffalo Bill 100 - 28 April 2004 HOW celebrated the centenary of Buffalo Bill's visit to Wollaston with a series of special events on the anniversary day. There was a special 1904 lunch at The Plough Inn on Bridgnorth Road, which is where Buffalo Bill had lunch that day, and is the only place in the village that survives pretty much unaltered in 2004. That evening there was also a special Wild West Show held there.
Stourbridge Locomotives 175 HOW has contributed items to an exhibition that is being held in Stourbridge Library throughout the month of August 2004 to celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the historic first runs of The Agenoria, the first locomotive to run in the Midlands and South, and of the Stourbridge Lion, the first locomotive to work on a commercial railroad in the USA. Both of these pioneering locomotives were made by Foster, Rastrick & Co in the New Foundry at John Bradley & Co in Wollaston.
Save the New Foundry HOW is fully supporting calls to secure and find a viable end use for the New Foundry building on the former John Bradley & Co site in Lowndes Road, Wollaston. Built over the winter of 1820/21, this was where the famous ‘Stourbridge’ locomotives were built in 1828/9 and is probably the longest continuously used foundry building in Europe. Despite being listed, following the closure of the site last year the condition of the building has deteriorated markedly, and recently English Heritage placed it on their annual Buildings at Risk Register. A campaign to save the building has been started. You can find out more by logging on to the Stourbridge website: www.stourbridge.com.
POW with HOW One of HOW's more recent lines of enquiry has been into the former Prisoner of War Camp that used to stand on the Park Road end of Swan Pool Park, just off Studley Gate. Loads of material has come in about this, but we could always do with more, especially photographs. The camp opened in 1943 with Italian prisoners, all of whom moved out by the end of 1944, when German prisoners moved in. They stayed until the camp closed on 16 August 1947. Later it was a Post Office Telephones depot.
Sheltering the Past? As well as a POW Camp, Swan Pool Park also had a large communal air raid shelter. This was built at the start of the Second World War, on the South Road end, where the football pitch is now. Does anyone remember it being built. Did you ever go down there - legally or illegally - I'm sure no-one will mind you admitting to it now! If so, please get in touch with HOW.
Wollaston Glass? Everyone's heard of Stourbridge Glass, but what of Wollaston Glass? Well, the village once had its very own Glassworks in Gladstone Road, called the Novelty Glass Works. They made coloured glass, and we have seen a few pieces, most of which are vases, about 8 inches high, with gold decoration on them. We also believe they made small animals in coloured glass. Have you got any such pieces of glass in your home. If so they might have been made right here in the village, and HOW would like to hear from you.
Dr Paul Collins
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