Some history on Blackheath in the county of Staffordshire
Blackheath [or Bleak Heath] is a town and was formed into an ecclesiastical parish July 13th, 1869, out of part of the civil parish of Rowley Regis, Staffs., and part of the civil parishes of the Hill and Cakemore, Worcestershire, two of the seven townships attached to the old borough of Halesowen; each of these parishes now has its own Parish Council, so that Black Heath is partly within the district of the Rowley Regis Urban District Council and partly within the areas of the Hill and Cakemore Parish Councils : it is about half a mile from Rowley Regis station on the Great Western railway, 3 south-east from Dudley, and 8 west from Birmingham, in the Kingswinford division of the county, Rowley Regis petty sessional division, Dudley union and county court district, rural deanery of Dudley and archdeaconry and diocese of Worcester : the Black Heath tunnel, on the Stourbridge extension railway, in this parish, is nearly three-quarters of a mile in length. The church of St. Paul, situated in the township of Cakemore, and built in 1869, at a cost of £10,000, is an edifice of red brick with Bath stone dressings, in the Gothic style, consisting of chancel, clerestoried nave of six bays, aisles, transepts, north porch and a western turret containing one bell: a reeds was erected in 1898, and in 1901 a stained east window was placed in commemoration of the Diamond Jubilee of Her late Majesty Queen Victoria: the organ cost £705: there are 1,000 sittings. The register dates from the year 1869. The living is a vicarage, net yearly value £235, with residence, in the gift of the Bishop of Worcester, and held since 10-7 by the Rev. George Kenneth Morgan Green, St. James's Mission room, at Waterfall Lane, was built in 1899, and will seat 200 persons. Here are Baptist, Primitive Methodist, United Methodist and Wesleyan Reform chapels. The Public Library, in Ross street, built in 1908 at a cost of about £1,800, was the gift of Andrew Carnegie esq.; it contains reading, reference and lending rooms, and there are now  1,290 books. The population in 11911 was 6,679.
This view of the Blackheath's High Street shows the shops on the south side of the thoroughfare, close to the junction of Hackett Street. The latter was later known as Heath Street, and the road emerging in modern times is called Bassano Road, named after the family of Haden Cross and, in particular, Walter Bassano, owner of the Haden Hill and Rowley Hall Collieries, and a leading public figure who was Chairman of the Justices and, for upwards of 20 years, Chairman of the Rowley Regis Local Board.
The photograph is very important to imbibers of beer because it features a dray for Taylor's Celebrated Ales, produced at the Vine Inn, a pub just out of shot to the left of this image. The business was headed by William Henry Taylor and operated until his death in 1922. There is a large chain at the base of the lamp-post which was perhaps used to secure the dray during loading or unloading. The woman holding a baby, to the left of the image, was standing outside the premises of Frederick Bennett, a newsagent and tobacconist. Next door was the butcher's shop of Tom Darby. Two decades earlier this shop was occupied by the butcher, Thomas Knight. The taller building with the bay window projecting on the first floor was the grocery shop of Henry Targett, the London-born beer retailer running the Manchester Stores next door on the corner of Hackett Street. The bargeboards on the opposite corner of Hackett Street advertised the business of Thomas Phillips Moyle, the grocer and provision merchant. He had occupied these premises for a couple of decades and employed a team of boys for odd jobs and delivering groceries in the local area.
This image shows the north side of the High Street, the building on the far right being on the corner of Short Street. Some of these buildings have survived into the 21st century, a notable exception being just along to the right a branch of Woolworth replaced some older shops. The first shop seen here was occupied by the butcher Sampson Andrews. In March 1896 Edward Cole, a 17-year-old labourer, was charged with burglariously entering these premises and stealing some mutton. His sentence was deferred, and the judge asked the Governor of the Gaol and the Chief Constable to make enquiries as to whether the prisoner could be taken in charge by some society and given a fresh start in life. Next door to the butcher's shop was the coffee rooms run by Joseph Parsons. A sign advertising refreshments can be seen projecting across the pavement. Another sign states that the business was established in 1889. Next door was the shop of Frederick Postlethwaite, a boot and shoe dealer.
When this late Edwardian photograph was taken the railway station was called Rowley Regis and Blackheath. The name was changed to Rowley Regis in 1968. With a good number of onlookers, this appears to be a special train but I am not sure for which outing or event? The station was opened on April 1st, 1867, as part of the Great Western Railway extension line from Birmingham to Stourbridge Junction. The section between Cradley Heath and Stourbridge had been running for a few months prior to this so, technically, it was a completion of the line.
This section of Birmingham Road was the early bus terminus at Blackheath. Here a bus is parked up ready for its journey to Quinton. The driver seems to be wearing a white coat and is perhaps making a few adjustments. The conductor is leaning on the nearside front fender of the bus. I know a little about pubs but my knowledge of buses is virtually nil. However, the transport museum at Wythall have a bus that looks rather similar to this model. That one is a Tilling-Stevens TTA2 which had seating for 34 passengers. I guess more could travel standing up. The bus at the museum has the registration number O 9926 and was new in 1913. This bus has the registration O 9925, so it was possibly registered on the same day. Rather like Eddie Stobbart lorries today, it would seem that these buses were given names. This bus has a sign bearing the name Duke of York. The young woman on the top deck is looking chuffed that she had a grandstand seat with the best view. The bus is parked up outside the hairdressing salon of Job Taylor. This is roughly where the RSPCA shop traded in later years. The Handel Hotel can be seen just beyond the horse and trap behind the bus. I was wondering if the man with the white apron was Job Taylor? The hairdresser would have been 49 years of age in 1913 and, judging by the look of this man, it is not far off the mark. Living here with his wife Hannah, he had been snipping hair for a couple of decades.
Tricky to date this image accurately as it is not a very clear or crisp photograph. Consequently, I cannot read the bill poster advertising the film being shown. The bus is the 217 to Halesowen, registration plate FHA 226, if that helps anybody? The Rex was one of three cinemas built in Blackheath by Thomas Cooper, a man who dominated the local film scene. He was also responsible for The Pavilion on the High Street, and The Kings on Long Lane. He bought and closed The Picture Palace on Cardale Street just to eliminate the competition. However, he did not have it all his own way as the Odeon on Long Lane was a major rival. The Rex was designed by Sidney H. Wigham, the Washwood Heath architect responsible for a number of cinemas in the region. J. M. Tate and Son erected the building to his plans. It was opened on Sunday, September 25th, 1938, in a novel way by Thomas Cooper placing the hall at the disposal of the Rowley Regis Charities Committee who organised a Celebrity Concert in aid of worthy causes in the locality. Films were shown on the following day, the main attraction being "Owd Bob," a British drama film directed by Robert Stevenson, starring Will Fyffe, John Loder and Margaret Lockwood. The last film screened at The Rex was the controversial "Ulysses" shown in July 1968. The building, like many a cinema, was later a bingo club. It was demolished in the 1990s for the development of the supermarket.
This Mitchell's and Butler's off-licence was located at No.73 Birmingham Road, amid a row of shops that were demolished with Barclay's Bank later occupying the site. This photograph dates from the early 1960s when Arthur Cox was the licensee. He has a very neat window in which he has displayed some of the products on sale inside.
I have marked the location of this off-licence on the above map extract surveyed in 1937. The building is marked on older ordnance survey maps. Note in the photograph above there is a door to an entry between the off-licence and the adjacent shop. This can be seen on the map extract, leading to outbuildings to the rear of the retail premises. A glass veranda links the main building to the largest of the outbuilding.
The building was once owned by George Adrian Slim, a man who made a success of his career in the licensed trade. At the turn of the 20th century he and his wife Louisa kept the Holly Bush Inn at Cradley. The couple also dabbled in the greengrocery trade. They operated this off-licence from 1922 to 1935 when they sold the business to Mitchell's and Butler's. The Cape Hill brewery installed George Weston as manager, the licence being transferred to him on October 2nd, 1935. He stayed until the beginning of the Second World War when he was succeeded by Charles Scampton who ran the shop with his wife Mabel. They both hailed from Coventry where Charles was the manager of an engineering works. He had some experience of the retail trade as his father had been a grocer. Following the war, they handed over to Arthur Cox, the licence being transferred on December 4th, 1946. He almost clocked up 20 years at the offie, being succeeded by Edith Grainger in December 1965.
This is the only photograph I have showing this off-licence at No.28 Beeches Road. Sadly, although many of the old houses remain in Beeches Road, this place was demolished. The photograph shows busy traffic along Beeches Road. I cycle along here quite regularly and it is a nightmare for parked cars and impatient drivers. I try to avoid the madness by pedalling along Marlow Street to head down The Tump.
I have marked the location of this off-licence on the above map extract surveyed in 1914. Located on the northern corner of Beeches Road and Darby Street, the building is not shown on the ordnance survey map of 1883 but is marked on the survey of 1902. There was some development on Darby Street by the early 1880s, the thoroughfare pre-dating John Street. Marlow Street was another late 19th century development. Certainly there were a lot of chimney pots, providing a good customer base for the offie.
The corner building clearly advertises ales from Cheshire's Brewery Limited. At this point the off-licence was only licensed to sell beer. The licensee was Thomas Baker. He also worked as an examiner in a tube works. When he was bring in that income his wife Lizzie would run the offie. Thomas Baker would retain the licence until 1929 when he was succeeded by Matilda Binger. She only stayed for 18 months when she moved to Saltley to run another off-licence on Malthouse Lane. On June 3rd, 1931, the licence of this shop was transferred to Joseph Welding, a manager for Mitchell's and Butler's. The Cape Hill brewery had acquired Cheshire's in 1914. Joseph, a former coal miner, was in his 70s when he was running the shop at the outbreak of World War 2. His wife, Florence, was a young whippersnapper at 65 years of age.
On June 5th, 1940, the licence of this offie was transferred to Archibald Nichols who had moved from the Barrel Inn at Cross Street in West Bromwich. His parents had been grocers and beer retailers. The off-licence seems to have been a stop-gap for he quickly moved to the Round Oak Inn at Brierley Hill.
Replacing the fly-by-night Archibald Nichols, Vivian Lionel Adams took over the retail premises, the licence being transferred to him on August 13th, 1941. He and his wife Violet had previously kept a similar business at Spring Hill in Birmingham. Vivian Adams had been working as a sheet metal worker, formerly for automobiles but, due to the war effort, he subsequently worked on aircraft. He had been in this line of work since the First World War when he served in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. He remained here at Beeches Road until 1953, the premises being granted a spirits licence on April 25th, 1951. Officially taking over in June 1953, the next licensee was Gladys Westwood. I think she may have been the last person to run the business.
"The celebration of a diamond wedding is such an unusual event that Mr. and Mrs. William Thompson, of Darby End, Blackheath, have
much cause for jubilation that they have been spared to pass a complete sixty years together as man and wife. Mr. Thompson was born at Darby End, near Dudley on May
23rd, 1830, and Mrs. Thompson at Stourbridge in August, 1823. They were married at St. John's Church, Kate's Hill, Dudley, towards the close of the year 1850.
Mr. Thompson followed his trade as a horse-nail maker for at least 20 years after he had taken to himself a wife, during which time he lived at Darby End and the
Knowle. Subsequently he carried on the business of a general dealer at Blackheath. Some eight or nine years ago he gave this business over to his son, and has since
lived in retirement. It was about the year 1852 that Mr. Thompson went to live at the Knowle, and here both he and his wife joined the Methodist New Connexion Church,
which had only just been opened. Both had previously been members of the same denomination whilst at Darby End. Mr. Thompson held the posts of Sunday school teacher,
class leader, local preacher, and treasurer of the trustees of the Knowle Church, with which he has been identified up to the present time, a period extending over
46 years with the exception of four years when he lived at Barrow-in-Furness. During this time he has taken a deep and practical interest in its work and
struggles, and in the erection of several new buildings. When he joined there was no chapel or school, and the services took place in a tumble-down old barn. Mr.
Thompson and others brought forward new schemes, and the church became a great force for good in the neighbourhood. Altogether Mr. Thompson has a member of the
Methodist New Connection Church - now, of course, the United Methodist - for 58 years. He was a Sunday school teacher for 40 years, a local preacher for 52
years, class leader for 50 years, trustee for a similar length of time, and treasure or the Knowle trust for about 40 years. This office he resigned in 1907, and has
twice been chosen representative to Conference, and once he was deputed by the Cradley Heath Circuit to visit Stockport. There have been nine children of the marriage -
three sons and six daughters. Two sons and two of the daughters are still living, together with 18 grandchildren. Mr. and Mrs. Thompson are in receipt of old-age
pensions. For their years the old couple are in excellent health, and Mr. Thompson can go about with the activity of one many years his junior. The simple life is
undoubtedly the secret of their longevity. In olden times they experienced the difficulty of struggling against bad trade, and only by perseverance did they get beyond
their troubles and make ends meet. Mr. Thompson has bee a total abstainer for 30 years and a non-smoker for over 50 years, and judging by his appearance has suffered
no loss on his account. He is slightly deaf, but for his years is wonderfully alert. He is an energetic student of politics, being an ardent Liberal. He received what
little education he got at the hands of others at Mr. Cattle's private school at Reddal Hill, at which he was charged 3d. per week. He left school at the age of
eight or nine. He remembers Old Hull where there were few houses in it, and when the place now occupied by its chief streets was meadow land.""
"Blackheath Diamond Wedding"
Dudley Chronicle : March 18th 1911 Page 7
"A one-armed man named William Rose, of Blackheath, made his 115th appearance at the Police Court, charged with being drunk
and disorderly on two occasions. P.C.'s Bowers and Stevens stated the facts. The Chairman of the Bench [Mr. A. H. Bassano] said : "We have been
trying for a long time to cure you, but cannot. You must go to prison for a month. When you come out you must sign the pledge.""
Dudley Chronicle : July 1st 1911 Page 7
"Private Leonard Smith, of New John Street, Blackheath. of the 2nd 5th South Staffordshires [the Rowley Regis Territorials],
in a letter to some friends at the Blackheath Working Men's Club, says: "Just a line to let you know I am getting on all right. We are now about four or
five miles beyond the firing line, and we live in bivouacs, a hut made with a few sticks. We had a day or two of rain, and it comes through the tent and wets us through.
We have to wait till the sun comes out to get dry again. We have been in the wet now for nine weeks, and look like stopping there through the winter. We keep on putting
up breast-works and making trenches every day. No six days a week, but seven. We have to walk about 5½ miles to work, as the firing line is like a horse shoe
and we are at the bottom end. I shall be glad when I can go to another whist drive, as it is very dull being in the wet so long. I should be glad if you could send me
a pack of cards to pass away a few hours."
"A Hut Made With Sticks"
Dudley Chronicle : September 25th 1915 Page 5
"Having stolen £35 10s. from the Rex Cinema, Blackheath, where they were employed, Fred Rollason, aged 17, of 54, Habberley
Road, Blackheath, and Arthur Goring, aged 17, of 43, Trejon Road, Old Hill, put the money in a suitcase and went to Liverpool to try and join the Merchant
Service. Being rejected, they went to London for a week and then returned home, Rollason making a full confession to his father, who thereupon went to the police.
When charged with the theft at Old Hill it was stated that £2l 14s. 9d. of the money had been recovered. The boys were placed on probation for two years with
an order for the restoration of the money not recovered."
"Couldn't enlist - had week's holiday on stolen money"
Evening Despatch : December 18th 1941 Page 3