7 August 2017

An Aldridge Perambulation

Although I walk around Aldridge on one mission or another every day, it is not often I choose to walk Aldridge purely as a leisure pursuit. Sunday unusually, was dry and reasonably sunny for some of the time and so I decided to amble where ever my feet and thoughts decided to go. When walking Aldridge for no other reason than I want to, my thoughts tend to lead to those who have walked before me, Grandparents, Great Grandparents and even Great Great Grandparents. My mind tries to picture the streets, roads and lanes as they were 100 years ago and even further back than that. On a reasonably quiet Sunday morning with the bells of the parish church ringing, it is not a difficult leap to make although I do think that most of my ancestors would be astounded by the changes that have taken place, not just in the buildings around the village or even the growth of housing but in the lack of industry compared with back then. No collieries now. No belching chimneys or even gently smoking chimneys from the homes. No blacksmiths forges. If one thing has improved in Aldridge whilst I have been alive, its the air quality!

This is the walk I took, taking photographs of anything that interested me along the way.

This terrace on Walsall Road is most attractive now. The tiny front gardens are immaculately maintained. Having checked the old OS maps they appear to have been built sometimes between 1901 and 1913. As a child I thought of them as unattractive and forbidding with their peeling green paint on windows and doors!
 Forgive this photograph of a roof but it is all you can see from Walsall Road. This small cottage on that road is older than the terrace above having been built between 1882 and 1901. It is the cottage I wrote about in a blog about my Grandfather who died there. It is also the house in which my father and his sister were born.

 Next to the cottage is the mile post marker. This must have been erected around the time the cottage was built as it appears for the first time on an OS map for which the survey was carried out in 1901. The post was manufactured by Charles Lathe & Co of Tipton who were established c.1887 and their mile markers can still be found all over Staffordshire. For many years the marker's reference to Watford Gap puzzled me as the only Watford Gap I had ever heard of was on the M1 and that is a great deal further than four miles! A request to the wonderful Brownhills Bob and his inestimable readership soon solved the mystery!
 Originally the site of White House Farm and now The Whitehouse pub,which was built in 1937. I was amused when attempting to trace any history of this pub that one web site states its location as Pool Green, Walsall, which is a nod to its true location (Pool Green was in effect a hamlet outside of Aldridge village until Aldridge started to grow outwards but controversially, may be the place that Aldridge was first settled and so is more Aldridge than Aldridge!) and one in the eye for rather a lot of people who have commented on the pub being in Aldridge and not Walsall on a particular Facebook group! It may be in Aldridge now but it may not have always been considered to be so.

After the fire - last week fire swept through this farm on Bosty Lane. I'm not sure how old some of these buildings are. They are not listed but they are old. They appear on OS Maps prior to 1881. The farm I am led to understand, is owned by Walsall Council and is currently unoccupied.
 Top Hangar at the Airport field. No longer occupied by the Countryside Services team from Walsall Council, who still own the building and judging by the gates, seldom entered and not for some considerable time. I find this a pity. It is a building that has enormous potential for community use but alas we live in what seems like perpetual austerity and so it is abandoned despite its history.

The Top Hangars history is partly explained by a poster on the door, left over from the Black Country Echoes Festival held during the latter part of 2014. Helliwells, producer of the Swallow Doretti is part of that history as was the war time manufacture of aircraft components by the same company, along with aircraft modification and repair at their factory which once stood on the other side of the airport field, fronting the Walsall Road.
 The Airport Field, now known as Aldridge Airport Field but originally called Walsall Aerodrome was purchased along with Aldridge Lodge (now demolished) in 1930 by Walsall Council. It closed in 1956. My Dad told me of the day he had seen Amy Johnson land on the field and I doubted him until I discovered that yes, she did actually land there back in 1938. Dad would have been 6 years old. Today was clear and there in the distance is Dudley and Rowley Regis.

Further along towards the west, the flats of the Chuckery in Walsall dominate hiding the more genteel view of St Matthew's in Walsall. At the bottom of the field the local model airplane club still brings in the numbers on a Sunday morning.
You can see the flats in Heath Town Wolverhampton in this shot if you get a magnifying glass out. As I sat on a post pondering the panorama of virtually the whole of the Black Country before me and certainly the Boroughs that make up the Black Country as it is considered today; Walsall, Sandwell, Dudley and Wolverhampton. it occurred to me that had I sat here 150 years ago I would have been able to witness the Black by Day, Red by Night, description famously made by Elihu Burritt the American Consul. Black Smoke during the day and the red from the forges and furnaces at night for the industrial revolution was a 24/7 enterpise, in all its glory. We are so lucky in Aldridge to have fantastic views in all directions, perched as we are on a ridge. Not so lucky if you cycle though as I have discovered, as all roads home are up hill!

This house on Barr Common Road appears on the 1885 OS map which was surveyed for in 1882. It seems from appearance to have been around for some considerable time prior to that date. It's a lovely old farm house and is listed on a local list (as opposed to The Statutory List of Special Architectural or Historic Interest).
 The start of Barr Common. The spot I stood to take this photograph was once part of  a gravel pit. The gravel was used for road repairs following the  expansion of roads after the various turnpike acts in parliament during the 18th and 19th centuries. Hard to believe it now isn't it?

Taken from Whetstone Lane. You can see the Sutton Coldfield transmitter and Sutton Park. As I said earlier, Aldridge is blessed with good views from many vantage points.

This nearly derelict house on Erdington Road, more or less opposite the junction with Whetstone Lane is causing a little controversy at the present time. The last house on that side until nearly at the junction with Little Hardwick Road it has a large garden, is right on the edge of the green belt and offers most pleasant views over fields towards Sutton Park.

The Shrubbery on Erdington Road. Grade II listed having being built in the mid to late 18th century. Used as offices now but apparently has some interesting period detail within.

 Just before the junction of Erdington Road with Portland Road are these buildings. I have no idea how old they are, probably no more than a century however, the brickwork speaks of days gone by as does the size of the windows. Per OS maps they were built prior to 1912.

Portland Road. At least 100 years old.

Peeping through the gate to get a glimpse of The Cottage built in the 17th century. It has sat there on the edge of The Croft for so long, I think many people forget it is there. Despite it now being such a busy road, I always think The Cottage remains in glorious isolation and seclusion. It looks so inviting. I would love a tour!
A famous Aldridge landmark. Now The Maltings but I do remember it as Frank James Hill Garage. It stands right next to The Moot House.  People often think that the hill was named after the garage and that Frank James owned the garage but the hill came first. Locally known as Frank James Hill but who was Frank James and how did he get a hill named after him?  That's a blog for another day but I do know the answer! One only has to look as far as Walsall and a foundry that used to stand in Bridgeman Street!

The Croft. Our village green. How long will this remain unspoiled despite it being protected by common land status and also being in a conservation area?

The war memorial or cenotaph as some call it. Originally erected in the church yard just a few yards away and re-sited in the 1950s. My Great Uncle, William Plant is remembered on this. My Great Grandmother, his mother,  kept a photograph of its original dedication in 1919 with her until she died.

The lychgate at the parish church.

The Bonner Memorial looking beautiful after all the loving attention of the Aldridge Volunteer Gardeners. We owe them so much for keeping Aldridge looking lovely. Thank you

OK so I took this photograph but I do like it! The Bonner Memorial Garden and The Parish Church all in one shot...and no cars!

The main entrance to the cemetery. Beautiful doors and well maintained.

The new Church Rooms. I have to admit that I didn't much care for this building originally but it has grown on me. I love the reflections of colours in and off the main window

Taken from the side of the new Church Rooms looking towards the new development that was built on the site of the 1970s rectory. The land on which the rectory stood was sold for the proceeds to be used towards the cost of the new Church Rooms. I don't think the houses of the new development will ever grow on me. Considering how much they cost when built, the look to me, like cheap impersonations of old farm houses but without the purpose......

.....and from the back they look like a row of terraced houses. They certainly packed them in!

Finally, the Old Rectory. Built in the 1820s and now accommodation for the elderly. A lovely spot right next to the church.

I ambled back towards The Croft to return home reflecting upon the fact that Aldridge is still not a bad place to live. My ancestors, two branches of my family came here for different reasons. My father's paternal side came here for work at the mines. His maternal side, two different generations, well one came to retire but did anything but and the other generation came to work on the farms. I left for nearly 20 years but returned because my parents were still here and I had young children that needed decent schools.

I hope you've enjoyed perambulating with me.


  1. Thoroughly enjoyed the write-up of your Walkabout.
    Re the Small cottage on Walsall Rd, I do well remember Rose Plant who lived there - certainly in the 1940s and who, unless it was raining, would be seated on the wooden bench beneath an ancient red may tree on the corner of Paddock Lane, just up from the cottage. With far fewer cars, and far more pedestrians to chat to, Rose was a fountain of knowledge of all that was going on locally.
    Re 'The House' on Barr Common Rd, this was known to me as Howard Waltons Farm, I believe that he was a local Councilor. A path just before the farm led across fields to Cuckoos Nook.
    Thank you, Keith Shaw

  2. Oh Keith, your comment about Rose made me smile. Rose was my Great Grandmother and a bit of a character from what I've been told. My Dad told me many years ago that she sat on that bench. I shall have a chat with him tomorrow about your memories of her. She died in 1950 and is buried up in the cemetery next to the church. From what Dad has told me, there were two cottages very close to one another there and the Plants lived in the one slightly further away from the road. She would have been well into her 70s when you saw her on that bench. Thank you for your comments. I really appreciate them.

  3. Thank you for bringing back such wonderful memories of Aldridge for me.