History on the town of Cradley Heath in the county of Staffordshire. Research is augmented with photographs, details of licensees, stories of local folklore, census data, newspaper articles and a genealogy connections section for those studying their family history.



 

Cradley Heath
Cradley Heath

Background Information
Home of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, the now-exiled Heathens Speedway Team and The Black Country Bugle, the old Black Country town of Cradley Heath was once famous for handmade chains and nails. In fact, Cradley Heath was, at one time, the world centre of chain manufacture. The anchors of many ocean-going liners would have had a chain manufactured in or around Cradley Heath.

Cradley Heath Chainmakers by Edwin Beech [c.1907]

The name of Cradley Heath is Anglo Saxon and translates as 'Crada's Clearing in the Woods.' A forge was first established here in the seventeenth century by Dud Dudley. This was at Cradley Forge between Cradley Heath and Quarry Bank where Mousesweet Brook meets the River Stour. It is thought that this was the site where he made his first experiments using coal to smelt iron.

Cradley Heath - Chain Shop Women and Children [c.1910]

Gradually, from this seminal period, Cradley Heath developed on the north side of the Stour into a industrialised squatter settlement. The town was once packed with small workshops and cottages where workers grafted over furnaces and remains of this can be found at nearby Mushroom Green. Any trip to Cradley Heath should incorporate a visit to this picturesque pocket of the region. One should remember however that life wasn't too pretty here during the industrial revolution. By the end of the 19th century a thousand tons of chain was produced per week in Cradley Heath. It was common for sheds to contain five or six women workers, each at an anvil, and a pole running across the room from which dangled chairs for babies so that a mother could rock her child as she worked. Conditions were terrible and life expectancy was short. One of the old chain shops at Mushroom Green has been restored and demonstrations of traditional chain making are occasionally given in the building.

Cradley Heathens Speedway Team with Bernt Persson

The former stadium of the Cradley Heathens is a short distance from Mushroom Green. It's been completely flattened now as a housing development has taken its place. There was once a pit mound next to the stadium colloquially known as 'Scotman's Hill' because it afforded free views of all the speedway action. Racing first started at Dudley Wood in 1947. When I was a young kid, I used to go in the late 1960's and early 1970's when the big names were Ivor Brown, Roy Trigg and Bernt Persson.

I’m glad I went to Dudley Wood in what was the stadium’s halcyon days. The atmosphere was terrific. Even though the team’s league position was fairly low, there would be great anticipation amongst the crowd making their way from Newtown. We’d walk along the dirt track along the side of the stadium to the sound of engines being tuned up and the greyhound dogs howling. We would emerge near the Victoria Inn where there would be a hot dog van, blokes selling rosettes and badges, somebody yelling “get your programme.” They even sold goggles for those who wanted to protect their eyes whilst they stood on the bend where, during races, the gravel would spray into the crowd. As a youngster you soaked it all up. I’m not sure of the attendance figures in the late 1960’s but it was probably a few thousand on a good night – there was always a good roar for a Heathens win. I was talked into going to a dog meeting towards the fag end of the stadium’s life and the place was a pitiful sight. Thankfully, my enduring memory will be that of the speedway during the height of its popularity.

Cradley Heath - Mary Macarthur at the Chainmakers' Strike [1910]

The area between the Five Ways and the train station is known as Lomey Town. The old Workers' Institute building that stood here has been removed to the Black Country Museum. The Institute was constructed with money left over from the public donations made in support of the women chainmaker's strike of 1910. As such it was one of the town's most significant reminders of Cradley Heath's close association with the chain-making industry.

Cradley Heath - Mining Subsidence in the High Street [1914]

It is worth noting the shape of the High Street. Even today it has a slight dip. This is because on the night of February 18th 1914 a 200 yard stretch of the road collapsed due to a mining subsidence. The cost of repairing the damage to both the road and buildings [some had been broken almost in half] was £25,000 which was a colossal sum of money in those days.

Cradley Heath - Reddal Hill Road from Spinner's End [c.1914]

Upper High Street leads towards Old Hill via the curiously-titled Spinner's End and Reddal Hill. A new housing development close to the library was once a large railway station for goods. After it closed it was a great place to play along with Bearmore Bank. Reddal Hill was once a self sufficient community has been almost completely flattened for a road widening scheme that never happened. However, the Waggon and Horses, a pub set back from the main road is one of two surviving properties.

In the 21st century Cradley Heath has become something of a one-shop town as much of the 'old' place was pulled down for the construction of a large metal box called Tesco. A leading economist once put forward a strong argument that big supermarkets lead to a net loss of jobs. Tesco may employ quite a few people but when the store forces the closure of other shops and services, plus the logistics that supported them, it creates joblessness rather than jobs. In addition, money spent in large supermarkets whizzes off to head office and does not remain in the local economy thus diminishing the multiplier effect, the consequence being that regional spending decreases.
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Related Newspaper Articles
"On Sunday two men in the employ of the Great Western Railway found the dead body of Pat White, the son of a farmer residing at Codsall, near Old Hill, lying across the up line midway between Old Hill and Cradley Heath. Near the body was the man's terrier dog, unhurt. White's head was badly crushed, and one of the legs was severed from the body and the leg was broken. The police have ascertained that the deceased left home Saturday night to transact business at Old Hill, after which he went to the Blue Ball Inn, where he stayed for a considerable time, and left at eleven o'clock. It is supposed that the deceased intended to go to his home by crossing the railway, and was knocked down by an express train. The officials were attracted to the scene of the accident by the dog, which refused to driven away from the remains of his late master. The deceased is said to be eighteen years of age. Mr. W. F. Topham [Deputy Coroner for South Staffordshire] held an inquest on the body last evening at the Plough and Harrow Inn, Corngreaves Road, Cradley Heath, and a verdict of "accidental death" was returned.”
"Killed on the Railway"
in
Birmingham Daily Gazette : July 23rd 1889 Page 6

"Eli Whitehouse, puddler, Cradley Heath, was charged with assaulting John Whitehouse, his father. It appeared that defendant went home under the influence of drink, and began to break the furniture, and when his father went into the house defendant savagely assaulted him. Defendant was ordered to pay a fine of 20s. and costs, or in default one month's imprisonment.”
"Old Hill Police Court"
in
Birmingham Daily Post 29th January 1885

"Arthur Powell, chain and anchor manufacturer, of Cradley Heath, was fined £11.5s. at Rowley for contravening the amended Factory Acts by neglecting to furnish his work girls with particulars and prices of chains to be manufactured for Lancashire traders. The Chainmakers' Association prosecuted, and counsel stated it was the first prosecution since the Home Secretary had issued the order, which was framed to prevent sweating and irregularities in the chain trade.”
"A "Sweater" Fined"
The Evening Post
30th March 1900 Page 2
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List of Pubs
Anchor Hotel
Beehive Inn
Bell Inn
Bird in Hand
Bridge Inn
Bull's Head Inn
Bull Terrier
Chainmakers' Arms
Cheese
Corngreaves Hotel
Cottage of Content
Cross Guns Inn
Crown Inn
Crown and Anchor
Five Ways Hotel
Four Ways Inn
Golden Harp
Hand of Providence
Heath Tavern
Holly Bush
Holly Bush Inn
Jolly Collier Inn
Moon Under Water
New Inn
Old Cross Guns Inn
Old House at Home
Painters' Arms
Plough and Harrow
Queen's Arms
Queen's Head
Railway Hotel
Railway Tavern
Red Lion
Reindeer Inn
Roebuck Inn
Round of Beef
Royal Exchange
Royal Oak
Royal Oak Inn
Salutation Inn
Swan
Swan Inn
Talbot Hotel
Victoria Inn
Vine Inn
Vine and Railway Hotel
Waggon and Horses

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Genealogy Connections
If you have a genealogy story or query regarding the Cradley Heath area you can contact me and I will post it here in addition to including your message within the website pages for Staffordshire Genealogy.

"As youngsters we would emulate the speedway stars of the day by racing on a dirt track. I spent many an evening track racing on the circuit between Bearmore Bonk and the Corona pop place. A classic oval, bricks were used for the inner. Alan Groves of Petford Street had a decent machine suited for the discipline. However, most of us turned up with whatever we had or could afford. I made a name for myself by competing on a Moulton Mini which meant I had to pedal really hard and use my elbows when the racing action got up close and personal. There was many a spill and broken skin but they were great nights. We raced from teatime 'til it got dark."
Kieron

"Can anyone remember the sports shop next to the High Street entrance to the Royal Cinema? Following the Mexico World Cup of 1970, I was treated to a pair of Puma Pele boots from this sports shop. They were black with a yellow puma stripe. Unfortunately, they did not help me in the way that Billy Dane had an 'assist' from his old boots. I continued to play like a donkey. Most folks had Winit boots made in Netherton but I remember boots with swivel studs that were the rage around 1971. I think they were endorsed by Alan Ball when he was at Arsenal."
Kieron

"I wish I had a photograph of the house that used to stand across the road from the Holly Bush in Newtown. It would be a great bit of social history in relation to the first generation of Asian immigrants that settled in Cradley Heath. I used to walk past it many a time I went to the Speedway. We’d walk down to Bannister Street from Reddal Hill, down the bank [no fancy steps in those days] across the brook and then over to the wider dirt track leading to the stadium. On the left, in the hollow by the brook, there was a house – gone now of course. It must have flooded at times. Anyway, either in the very late 1960’s or very early 1970’s the house was bought by a family from Pakistan. A nice family with whom my mother had some dealings as, at the time she was selling furniture and new incomers were very keen to buy cheap, affordable furnishings for their new home. But the amazing thing was that they painted the house white and green and also painted the Pakistan flag on the front of the property. Of course, they were clearly very proud or their origins and it added a bit of colour to this grimy industrial locale. I fear that today such a bold statement would create a hostile reaction which, I guess, is a reflection on how attitudes have changed for the worse. We seem to have become a very intolerant nation."
Kieron

"One of the sons now owns the shop up by Netherton church, I think his name is Racki."
Neil Hanson

Cradley Heath Speedway Programme [1949]

Banks's Imperial Mild Ale [1960's]

Links to other Websites
Black Country Bugle
Black Country Gob
Black Country Society
Cradley Heath Speedway

Quotation
Gilbert K. Chesterton
"They spoke of progress spiring round,
Of Light and Mrs Humphry Ward -
It is not true to say I frowned,
Or ran about the room and roared;
I might have simply sat and snored -
I rose politely in the club
And said, 'I feed a little bored;
Will some one take me to a pub?
The new world's wisest did surround
Me; and it pains me to record
I did not think their views profound,
Or their conclusions well assured;
The simple life I can't afford,
Besides, I do not like the grub -
I want a mash and sausage, `scored' -
Will someone take me to a pub?
I know where Men can still be found,
Anger and clamorous accord,
And virtues growing from the ground,
And fellowship of beer and board,
And song, that is a sturdy cord,
And hope, that is a hardy shrub,
And goodness, that is God's last word -
Will someone take me to a pub?
Envoi Prince, Bayard would have smashed his sword
To see the sort of knights you dub -
Is that the last of them - O Lord
Will someone take me to a pub?”
G. K. Chesterton
"A Ballade of an Anti-Puritan"
[1874-1936]

Not One to Mix with the Riff-Raff in the Bar

1950 Advertisement for Mitchell's & Butler's

Work in Progress

Édouard Manet "The Merry Beer Drinker" [1870's]

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Newspaper Articles
"One of the most disgraceful riots ever known in this neighbourhood took place here on Tuesday, and although we have not as yet heard of any deaths resulting therefrom, it is almost a miracle that a great many lives have not been sacrificed, A great deal of ill feeling has existed for some time between the Liberals of Cradley Heath and the Conservatives of Rowley, in consequence of the opposition the Cradley people met with their endeavours to adopt the Local Government Act at Cradley Heath, and it has been rumoured for some time that at the election they would pay off old scores. For the purpose of carrying out their designs they were assisted by about 700 roughs from The Lye and Halesowen, who, being much annoyed at Mr. Amphlett's success on the previous day, came over to help on the disturbance. Early in the morning a party of constables were despatched from Dudley, but on reaching Cradley Heath they were most brutally set upon by a party of roughs, who pelted them with great stones. Many of them were badly hurt, and had to make the best of their way back to Dudley. The roughs, who were now very numerous, and seeing none of their opponents, thought they might make their way up to the headquarters of the Conservatives, at Old Hill; but near the Reddal Hill School they met a party of police and a number of the Rowley people. Near the Reddal Hill School there is a very steep hill, and there is generally a pool of stagnant water at the bottom. The police and party unfortunately were nearly at the bottom of this hill, and the roughs at the top, who, as soon as they saw the policemen, rushed on to them with great force, and precipitated them to the bottom. A general fight ensued, the object of the roughs being to force their opponents into the water, and to plaster their faces with mire. This they in a great many cases succeeded in doing, but the police retaliating there was a regular skirmish in the mud and many faces were quite unrecognisable, and what with blood and dirt were most hideous to behold. The roughs at last succeeded in obtaining the victory and drove their opponents back to Old Hill, Shortly afterwards, a cab was seen approaching with a red curtain to the window, and this being taken to be a Conservative badge, although the cab was engaged by the Liberals, they at once smashed the windows and other parts of the cab, the driver with difficulty making good his escape, after receiving several severe blows from stones. The riot now began to assume a very serious aspect, the roughs breaking everything which came in their way, smashing windows and knocking down everyone who had on a blue ribbon. A special messenger was at once despatched to Brierley Hill for a detachment of soldiers, who were known to have arrived from Birmingham. They quickly made their way to Cradley Heath, but the roughs were so elevated with their victory over the police, that they determined to show fight, and kept their ground until many of them were severely injured by the cutlasses of the soldiers. The neighbourhood was in a great state of excitement, and many of the women turned out to help their husbands. The soldiers succeeded in restoring order for a short time, when it was announced that 500 roughs had arrived at Old Hill from Dudley to help the Conservatives. This immediately roused the Liberal roughs, who went to meet them, and after a short parley both sides agreed to go into an adjoining field and settle matters. The field was at once nearly filled, and the roughs taking off their coats went into it in earnest. The police thinking it useless to interfere quietly watched them at a distance. Mr. Isaac Spooner, stipendiary magistrate, rendered valuable assistance in endeavouring to allay the disturbance, but when our parcel was dispatched all was in the greatest excitement, and the fight was raging with unabated vigour.”
"Disgraceful Riot at Cradley Heath"
Birmingham Daily Gazette : Nov 26th 1868 Page 5.

Banks's Imperial Pale Ale [c.1950's]

"About half-past six on Thursday evening a terrible explosion of gunpowder occurred at Cradley Heath, resulting in the death of two children and in serious injuries to three others. The explosion took place at the promises of Mr. Henry Mould, ironmonger, of 134, High Street, Cradley Heath. It appears that Mr. Mould received a consignment of about 200lb of powder on Thursday, and this was deposited in a detached store situated about fifteen yards at the rear of the shop, and some six yards from a row of half a dozen small cottages. Several children whilst at play discovered grains of powder strewn about the yard, and began to set fire to them with lighted paper. They gradually approached the door of the store, where there was a quantity of scattered grains, which formed a train communicating with other powder inside the storehouse. Unaware of their danger, they ignited the powder, the result being that a tremendous explosion instantly ensued, the whole of the kegs being blown up. The store was completely wrecked, the bricks lying in all directions, and falling upon the unfortunate children, most of whom were buried in the debris. Such was the force of the explosion that the windows of the six cottages were blown out, and the buildings more or less damaged, together with the adjoining shop of Mr. Birch, baker, and also the establishment of Mr. Mould. The explosion was heard a distance of more than half a mile. it was found that Lilly Birch, about five years old, the daughter of the Mr. Birch before mentioned, had sustained terrible injuries, and she was picked up dead. Another child, Thomas Lot Ellingham, two years old, died on the way to the Guest Hospital, at Dudley; to which institution were also removed Florence Billingham, aged eight years, and her brother James, six years old, both being seriously injured. Laura Tipton, ten years old, was also hurt, but was treated at her home. Shortly after the occurrence Mr. T. Standish, surgeon, Mr. D. Denne, and another medical gentleman, arrived, and rendered prompt aid to the sufferers. It seems that the powder had been removed to the store by George E. Milward, Mr. Mould's assistant, who swept out the place about half-past five o'clock, and it is supposed that either the kegs had leaked, or the contents of the store had been swept into the yard with the dust. Yesterday the condition of the three children who are in the Guest Hospital, Dudley, was much the same as on Thursday night, when they were admitted. All are burnt about the hands, wrists, face, neck, and scalp, Adam being the worst injured of the three. The surgeon at the institution gives but slight hope of his recovery.”
"Explosion of Gunpowder at Cradley Heath"
Birmingham Daily Post : April 9th 1887 Page 5.

Newspaper Articles
"Yesterday, the small chainmakers in the Cradley Heath and surrounding districts struck work for an advance of wages. A number of men are now working out existing contracts, and when these have been completed at the end of this week, it is computed that fully 2,000 men will be out on strike.”
Birmingham Daily Post 17th April 1884

"A mass meeting of the chain workers who are on strike in the Cradley Heath and surrounding districts was held yesterday at the Four Ways, Cradley Heath; Mr. Willingham presiding. It was unanimously resolved to play on until the employers conceded the advance claimed. Subsequently the operatives walked in procession through Old Hill and other chainmaking districts.”
"The Strike in the Chain Trade"
Birmingham Daily Post 25th April 1884

"At a meeting of the chainmakers, who are on strike in the Old Hill and Cradley Heath district for an advance of wages, held yesterday, at Cradley Heath, it was reported that notes bad been received from several employers, offering to pay the advance. It was resolved to adjourn the consideration of the notes until Monday next, and play on until all the masters concede the increase claimed.”
"Labour and Wages"
Birmingham Daily Post 1st May 1884

Banks's Mild Ale [1959]

"James Lane, anchor manufacturer, of Cradley Heath, was charged with employing a youth named John Griffiths after two o'clock on Saturday, the 11th ult. The youth was put in the box, and stated that on the day named he was allowed no dinner hour, and his master asked him to work during the afternoon. Defendant was fined 40s. and costs.”
"Factory Act Prosecutions"
Birmingham Daily Post 6th November 1884

"Yesterday morning a chainmaker named Samuel Walker [42], of Corngreaves Road, was found dead in an outhouse. About seven o'clock his wife left him at work in the chain shop, and a few minutes afterwards, upon going to look after him, found him suspended from a rafter.”
"Suicide"
Birmingham Daily Post 29th May 1885

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Newspaper Articles
"Last night information was received by Police Sergeant Hayward, of Cradley Heath, of the death of John Thomas Westwood, aged one year and eight months, son of Thomas and Alice Westwood, who reside in Corngreaves Road, Cradley Heath. On Thursday an inquest was opened before Mr. Topham [deputy coroner] respecting the death of another of Westwood's children, a girl named Edith, two years and nine months old; and at the enquiry some painful revelations were made as to the filthy state of the home where the deceased's parents resided, and the emaciated and dirty condition of the children. The inquest was adjourned until the 27th inst., in order that a post-mortem examination of the body might be made, and this was done yesterday. The death of the second child, which occurred about seven o'clock last night, caused the affair to assume a much more serious aspect, and the parents of the children were immediately arrested by Police Sergeant Hayward, who was accompanied by Superintendent Wollaston on a charge of manslaughter. The facts of the case have been reported to the coroner, and an inquest will be held on the body of the boy who died last night. The parents will be brought before the magistrates today, and remanded pending the completion of the inquest.”
"Arrest of Parents at Cradley"
Birmingham Daily Post : Dec 21st 1889 Page 5.

Worthington's Indie Pale Ale [1940's]

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