On the tiles @thebathams – and the remarkable Gibbons family of Brierley Hill

If you take time and look there’s lots of outstanding art in Brierley Hill. You just have to look for it…and at what better place than the Bull and Bladder in Delph Road.

Of course there’s lots of things to appreciate about the Bull and Bladder – the best value for money food in the West Midlands and the most delicious beer to name just too.

It was after a few of those pints that I was, so as to say, in the mood to stare. And I saw these tiles.


The tiles line the main corridor and reminded me of some I’d seen somewhere else in Brierley Hill – at the old Brierley Hill Technical Institute and Library in Moor Street.

These are the green dado tiles which adorn the entrance hall and stairway:




There’s other pleasing tile work there too. For example:


I thought I found out more about these tiles and came across details of a remarkable family who lived in Brierley Hill and area at the turn of the last century.

The tiles in the Technical School were gifted to the building by Francis Gibbons, of Gibbons, Hinton and Co who were local tile manufacturers (they seem to have been based at Buckpool). One of Francis Gibbons brothers, Arthur Gibbons, had designed some of the terracotta artwork on the outside of the building. Here is his work above the doorway to the library.


and similar work at the Technical Institute entranced:


Now I’d come across Arthur Gibbons before. He was the head of Brockmoor Schools during the First World War and sent letters he had received from his former pupils who were serving to the County Express, hence preserving for posterity, in their own words, the experiences of local soldiers.

But a bit more digging uncovered even more about the remarkable Gibbons family.

Born in Cheltenham five members of the family moved to the Brierley Hill area and developed an extraordinary record in arts and education from which the town greatly benefitted:

  • One, a sister, was a head teacher of a school in Pensnett, went on to marry the chairman of the board of education and then became the mistress of the first Board School girls’ department in the district.
  • A second sister was for 20 years the headmistress of Bent Street Girls’ School and wrote frequently for magazines which circulated through the whole of Great Britain.
  • Owen Gibbons was an artist who studied at South Kensington and won national prizes for his art work, before becoming the curator of the Royal Architectural Museum in London and later the headmaster of Coalbrookdale School. He was also at the forefront of the establishment of Wordsley Art School and was one of the teachers of Fred Carder of international glass fame. In 1885 he established with his brother in law Mr W. J. Hinton his art tile factory at Buckpool in partnership with his brother Francis.
  • Francis Gibbons won a scholarship at South Kensington Royal College of Art and then became art director at Doulton’s Royal Pottery at Lambeth where he designed many of their world renowned ceramic products. When he established the tile works at Brockmoor he introduced many improvements in the decorative and mechanical production of tiles. Francis was also an expert in oil and water colour painting and had exhibited at the Roayl Academy.
  • Arthur Gibbons, after serving in the Moor Street School as class master was appointed to be headmaster of Brockmoor School when it was first built and held that post for more than 30 years whilst also becoming the first principal of the new art school in Brierley Hill.

I think that is an extraordinary record for a local family. Something we should be admiring and celebrating as residents of Brierley Hill.

There’s a sad side to this story too. I realised that I’d blogged before about Francis Gibbons painting. He painted this as a tribute to Sgt William Jordan, a Brockmoor Solidier who lost his life during the first world war, and presented it to the town in July 1917. Francis died on 4th October 1918 so this must have been one of his last works.


The painting has been lost whilst in the care of Dudley Council.

So a fantastic and pleasurable journey into local art and history. All courtesy of a few pints at the Bathams.

Post Script – more examples of Gibbons work

Browsing the web I came across some more images of the Gibbons family work – and I can’t help but to be impressed with the quality.

Here is an Owen Gibbons fireplace:


and here are example of some of the other tiles he designed:




Finally, here are some further examples of the work produced by Gibbons, Hinton and Co at their Brierley Hill factory:



GibbonsHintonTileGoAntiques<br /><br />

Riots in Quarry Bank – leading councillor’s premises attacked

High summer temperatures; a feeling of injustice; heavy handed policing; insensitive politicians. Classic ingredients for public unrest. In August 1914, in Quarry Bank, hard pressed workers were outraged when shopkeepers increased food prices upon the outbreak of war. Even more so when two of the shop-keepers were local councillors. Cue the Quarry Bank Riots!


As the start of the Great War is commemorated across the country a great deal of focus is understandably being placed on those soldiers who went away to war.

But what of those who stayed at home?

They were being hit hard too: there was no welfare state to speak of, so if you were out of work you were pretty much on your own, desperate to find ways in which to feed yourself and your family; there was high levels of poverty and unemployment in any case, but with the start of the war export markets were closed down, orders lost and workers laid off – left to fend for themselves and their families.

Additionally, those in the territorial forces, who were mobilised at the outbreak of war, left wives and families behind amidst great confusion regarding separation allowances.

When a town meeting in Quarry Bank took place on Tuesday 25th August one resident, a Mr. Mason, set out how bad the situation was:

“…apart from the dependents of sailors and soldiers he knew there were 21 families, with 90 persons, in Quarry Bank at that time who were on the verge of starvation…Last Saturday about 20 women went to his house asking for relief. One woman with eight children had not had a particle of food or fire in the house during Saturday, and there was no prospect of any for the Sunday.” [1]

To make things worse there was panic buying when war broke out. Prices in the shops went up. Food was in short supply. In Brierley Hill the country’s biggest producer of cured ham and bacon, Marsh & Baxter, claimed that farmers were holding on to pigs in the hope of higher prices and bemoaned the fact that pigs had risen in price by more than 25s in the days following the outbreak of war.[2]

Already struggling, people suspecting profiteering was taking place. When two Quarry Bank shopkeepers – both local councillors – put their prices up tensions began to boil over.

With high summer temperatures, unemployment and financial hardship rife, a mistrust of politicans, a substantial intake of alcohol and some arguably insensitive policing the conditions were set for the Quarry Bank Riots of 1914.

Caption: this picture appeared in the Black Country Bugle in April 1981 and shows some of the damage caused by the Quarry Bank Riots.

The riots

7th August

Early on the afternoon of Friday 7th August groups of men gathered and started speaking angrily of “…certain tradesmen in the district raising the prices of food stuffs.” As the afternoon wore on greater numbers gathered and by five o’clock many hundreds marches into New Street to the premises of one of those accused of raising prices – Mr. Joseph H. Goodwin, a local councillor and owner of a provisions shop.

As tensions rose, there was an exchange of words and a stone was thrown. Fortunately, on this occasion, the stone hit the wood holding the plate glass and bounced away.

But things were getting ugglier.

The crowd then moved to the premises of Cllr Yardley, the chairman of Quarry Bank UDC – another shop keeper.

In a short time two or three panes of glass were smashed.

Yardley promised to reduce prices, and did so. The windows of his shop were boarded up.

Police had arrived – Sergeants Beddoes and Tunnicliffe – and were said to have handled the crowd tactfully.

At length the vicar, Rev T. J. McNulty, left the vicarage and asked the crowds to go with him to Mr Barnes’ field at the top of High Street. Leaders of the mob proceeded with him, followed by several hundreds of people.

At the field McNulty tapped into the emotions of the time. Calling on the patriotic spirit of the crowd he stressed the need for unity at that time of crisis. Recognising the strength of feeling of injustice and fear amongst the crowd he also made a personal commitment to use all of his influence to help members of the working class and the poorer members of the community.

The vicars words were received “with great cordiality” and, for the moment, tensions were eased.

A public meeting was planned for later that night to peacefully consider the community’s grievances.

Accordingly, at seven thirty, the town bell was rung, summoning residents to an open air protest meeting at the top of Maughan Street.

By eight o’clock several hundreds had gathered listening to an address firstly by Mr. John Foxall, a member of the council, and then by Mr. James Neason, secretary of the local Brickmaker’s Society. Neason moved a resolution of protest and that an appeal be made to the Board of Trade. Mr Andrew Homer seconded and…

“…appealed all present to remain quiet and sober minded, and when they had nothing else to do to dig their back gardens rather than be getting into skirmishes such as they had had that day.”[3]

In the vanishing light of the summer’s evening the air resounded with a mighty “Aye” as the proposition was put the vote.

The crisis was averted. Calm returned to Quarry Bank.

For the moment.

Caption: The Rev. T. J. McNulty whose words brought peace to Quarry Bank on the night of 7th August 1914, but was unable to quell the anger the following evening.

8th/9th August

Saturday, 8th August started quietly. But by the evening it was clear that, although many traders had dropped their prices there was still a lot of anger in the town.

The trigger for the second round of rioting occurred when two brothers, William Bucknall of High Street and Samuel Bucknall of Maughan Street, having been drinking, visited Goodwin’s shop at 9pm.

The County Express reported “…there conduct was such that the police felt it necessary to interfere, and eventually had to take them into custody.”

This police action didn’t go down well.

News of arrests spread and hostility and anger amongst the crowds quickly reached boiling point. Police reinforcements were called for and Brierley Hill Superintendent Johnson and some of his men arrived.

The belief was that Cllr Goodwin had instructed the arrests and “…no amount of reasoning sufficed to dispel this view”.

By eleven o’clock that Saturday night a crowd approaching 2,000 persons marched from High Street to Goodwin’s Shop in New Street:

“At one period there was approaching 2,000 persons in the vicinity of Mr Goodwin’s shop”

“Stone throwing started, and the thick plate glass windows of both shops were smashed. Again and again there were very ugly rushes, so much so that the comparatively small body of about a dozen policemen were powerless to stop them effectively.

Looting was commenced and large quantities of provisions, including hams and bacon, jams and other articles were taken from the shops and passed out to the crowd and carried away.

In the smaller shop of the two a ‘battering ram’ was used from inside, with which looters broke the window stays, and this act was followed by a general rush to wreck the premises and carry away the goods.

The crowd were frequently repulsed by the police, but their best effort could not prevent a continuance of the riotous behaviour of the wildest sections.”

Women cheered and sang when the windows were broken.

For the second night running the vicar, Rev. T. J. McNulty, attempted to intervene, asking the ringleaders to stay their hand.

This time it was to no avail. The disturbances went on the two or three o’clock on Sunday morning.

“When Sunday morning dawned it was seen that great havoc had been wrought. Both Mr Goodwin’s shop windows were entirely wrecked and what goods remained in the shops were damaged. The windows in the private portions of the front elevation were also smashed.”[4]

Some years later Hartley Shaw, son of County Councillor Albert Shaw, the soft drinks magnate, recalled the event:

Rioting broke out in many places. One such happened in Quarry Bank where a grocer attracted much wrath. One night his shop was broken into by a crowd, and they smashed in the window, grabbing much of the stock from the shelves. Falling over each other, much was spilled onto the pavement outside. I was on holiday at the time and saw the next morning the evidence of the riot. Jam and other soft food were strewn on the pavement. When the crowd dispersed, the terrified grocer phoned Brierley Hill who ordered the members of the force who resided in Quarry Bank to investigate.

The protestors appear to have had support from local residents. As Shaw says:

“When they arrived on the scene in the early hours, astonishment showed on their faces. There was not a soul in sight apart from a few spectators from bedroom windows. When interrogated, these witnesses failed to recognise anyone in the crowd. Recounting the event some days later with me, the constable chuckled; he had a soft spot for the poor and no time for the profiteers, although he did not say so.”[5]

The court cases

On the Monday following the riots William and Samuel Bucknall whose arrest had triggered the second wave of rioting were charged at Brierley Hill Police Court with being drunk and disorderly. They were bound over for six months in the sum of £5.

The next day George Collins, aged 61, chain striker, and David Robinson, 25, labourer, of Sheffield Street; John Hutton, 21, galvaniser, of West Street and Benjamin Homer, 43, chain striker of Lower High Street were committed for trial at the Quarter Sessions on a charge that:

“On August 9th with divers other persons being riotously and tumultuously assembled together to the disturbance of the public peace, they did unlawfully and with force dame the shop of John Goodwin, New Street Quarry Bank.”[6]

The trial at Staffordshire Quarter sessions took place two months later on 16th October 1914. The prosecutor, Mr. H. G. Tarrant claimed that three thousand people had been involved in the riots and had caused damage estimated at £100 (just over £8,000 at today’s prices.)

“It was alleged that prisoners incited the crowd and assisted to help in the destruction of the shop. A witness stated that the shop was assailed with a constant shower of stones, and the crowd did not disperse until early on the Sunday morning. The women in the crowd cheered and sang when the windows were broken.”

Collins “who was considered the ringleader” received sentence of twelve months hard labour, Hutton and Homer nine months’ hard labour, and Robinson six month’s hard labour.[7]


In The Times of 7th August 1914 the Prince of Wales made an urgent appeal for a relief fund recognising

“…that the present time of deep anxiety will be followed by one of considerable distress among the people of this country least able to bear it.”

Quarry Bank’s response to the appeal was initiated at a Town’s Meeting (referred to above) on 25th August.

At the meeting the Rev McNulty recognised the value of hop-picking.

“Instead of being kept at home without means, many would be able to go to the hop-fields and earn money with which they could keep their children whilst there, and for some time after they returned.”

He further appealed to Staffordshire Education Committee not to summon parents who took their children to the hop-fields.[8]

In the event the Education Committee ignored the request, creating anger amongst members of the Kingswinford School managers. At their meeting at the end of October County Councillor Albert Shaw raised the matter:

“It was pointed out that there was very great unrest in the district, and at the time the poor people went to the hop fields, there was considerable distress and agitation in the district and it was felt on all hands that perhaps one of the best things that could be done was for the people to go to the hop fields.”

“Poor people had given generously to the Prince of Wales’ Fund.

“The local managers felt that at this time it was above everything else necessary that people should be kept happy and contented, and the only way to do it was to act with leniency so long as law and order were preserved”[9]

The number of parents ordered to be summoned by Staffordshire County Education Committee increased from 39 to 111 in 1914 – %185.[10] This may reflect that more people were forced by circumstances to go away hop-picking – the County Express of 5th September reporting a record exodus. The Committee claimed that Quarry Bank had no special circumstances different to other towns and, even after receiving a delegation, hardened their stance.

Three years later further insensitivity by the authorities was shown.

Faced with being unable to feed the population following the success of the U-Boat campaign Food Control Committees were set up to manage food supplies in the UK.

Quarry Bank residents were outraged at the composition of their local committee set up the the local council. They were only satisfied after more workers were appointed and two members resigned.

The names of the two members? Cllrs Goodwin and Yardley.


  1. County Express 29th August 1914  ↩
  2. Nevertheless whilst complaining about increased prices and the difficulty in getting hold of pigs ( County Express 15th august 1914) Marsh & Baxter were delivering up to 10,000 hams a day following the outbreak of war and had won a contract with the government to supply the forces. A daily procession of lorries went to and from their premises conveying hams to special trains – destined for the various supply depots. (County Express 22nd August 1914)  ↩
  3. County Express 8th August 1914  ↩
  4. Country Express 15th August 1914  ↩
  5. Black Country Bugle 12th September 2012  ↩
  6. County Express 15th August 1914  ↩
  7. County Express 24th October 1914  ↩
  8. County Express 29th August 1914  ↩
  9. County Express 31st October 1914  ↩
  10. County Express 14th November 1914  ↩

Brierley Hill on the day war broke out and the departing of the first troops

On 4th August 1914 war was declared on Germany.

Two notices were placed in the Brierley Hill Post Office window (the building still exists and is now a cafe) – ordering the men to report for dutry.

Post Office
Caption: the post office building is still there today, and is now a cafe. The building to its right is the magistrates court and police station – where a special watch was kept for Zeppelin attacks.

The Brierley Hill, Brockmoor, Pensnett and Quarry Bank men of the Territorial army(E Company, 1st/5th Battalin, South Staffordshire Regiment) were summoned by a bugler being sent round the street and by cycle to the outlying areas. These were, afterall, the days when telephony was in its infancy and there was no radio and tv.

The response was strong. At the Drill Hall in Pearson Street (now part of ASDA car park) the men assembled.

As the night wore on crowds gathered at Five Ways and at the Junction of Pearson Street and High Street – illuminated by the hissing glow of the gas lights in the street.

“Rule Britannia” and other patriotice songs were sung, and kit was issued to the men – including entrenchment trowels, described by the County Express as “very handy little instrument” as if aware of what lay ahead.

By the following morning, 5th August, the men were ready to depart.

At the orders of their commander and with the good wishes of their townsfold the soldiers marched away. Many were never to return.

The rain drizzled down.

Here is the County Express article describing the incredibly moving events of 4th and 5th August 1914.

Brierley Hill Territorials

A Magnificent Response

The shrill blasts of a bugle in the principal streets of Brierley Hill summoned on Tuesday night the members of the local Territorial force (E Company) to arms.

At about eight o’clock there were posted in the windows at the post office two announcements issues by the authority of His Majesty the King, the one ordering the mobilisation of the army reservists and the other the embodying of the Territorials.

The orders were not altogether unexpected; indeed, before the men were dismissed to their homes following their return from camp at St. Asaph on Monday, there were told that the must hold themselves in readiness.

In addition to the publication of these orders there were despatched through the post summonses to all men, but in some cases these were not due to reach the men until first post on Wednesday morning.

Within half an hour of the posting on Tuesday night of the King’s orders at the post office Territorials were seen proceeding towards their headquarters, the new Drill Hall in Pearson Street, carrying their haversacks and other equipment on their backs.

At the hall, pending the arrival of the officers, the men were met my Sergt-Inst Smith and Colour-Sergt Bird, who, it will be remembered, was one of the many Brierley Hill Volunteers who went to the South African War.

As time rolled on more and more men presented themselves. Soon after nine o’clock Lieut. Allden arrived, and he was quickly followed by the commanding officer, Capt. W.E. Moore, who motored from his home in Sutton Coldfield.

John Allden
Caption: Lieut. John Allden died in 1918 and never saw the end of the war. A compassionate man, there is a memorial to him inside St Michael’s Church and his name is on the Church Hill war memorial

The movements of the Territorials and the intermittent blasts of the bugle in the streets drew large crowds from their homes. There were many at the Five Ways and a dense crowd assembled at the corner of Pearson Street, and also in the vicinity of the Drill Hall.

In the absence of orders for their immediate movement, the men were permitted, after reporting themselves, to mingle with their relatives and friends in the streets.

Steadily the flow of incoming men continued.

Some of the Territorials in E Company are resident in the districts, considerably removed from the town, and with a view of facilitating communications with them special messengers were despatched on cycle and by foot.

The response was in every case almost instant. Soon after eleven o’clock there were some 90 men present – a truly remarkable response to the call.

The Scene at Midnight

At midnight the company officer still awaited orders. Messages with the headquarter staff at Walsall were frequent.

Soon after midnight there was very great activity. The men drew their blankets and socks from the stores, and also their entrenching tools – very handy little implements.

At one o’clock 100 men were at the Hall, so that in under five hours five-sixths of the total strength were under orders. Capt. Moor expressed to our representative his gratification at the splendid manner in which the company had come in.

The men were all in the best of spirits. In the street “Rule Britannia” was lustily sung, and in the main thoroughfare snatches of patriotic songs held sway.

Again, the bugler went out into the streets and blew his loudest and best.

Other men, chiefly from outside districts, came along, passed to head-quarters, and received their kits.

Soon after one o’clock, as no definite orders were announced, directions were given the men that they might lie down and take rest. A very few did; the bulk of the rank and file continued in the merriest of moods.

It was understood that the company would have to proceed to Walsall on foot, but it was not until four or five o’clock that Capt. Moore received definite orders that the company were to get to Walsall some time during that day.

At five o’clock the commanding officer wisely informed the men that they could have three hours’ leave, in which they might proceed to their homes for breakfast and for a wash, and to return to the Hall at 8 a.m. Those whose homes were sufficiently near to permit this availed themselves of the opportunity, but all had returned by the stipulated time, anxious to learn more news.

A Magnificent Response

Several other men came in, and at nine o’clock 117 out of a total of 121 were paraded – a remarkable reply to the King’s request.

Of the four absentees one was away on sick leave, another was, by permission of the colonel of the battalion, away, but was re-joining during the day, and the other two were Wallheath Territorials, who would not receive their mobilisation orders until that morning at probably eight o’clock.

At nine o’clock the men were formed up by the sergeants in sections in the Hall. Afterwards they received their rifles from the stores, and the sergeant instructor then served out packets of ammunition, which the men unwrapped and fitted in their bandoliers.

Again the men were formed up and their roll called. Every man made a smart reply to his hame.

Capt. Moore addressed a few words to them, urging that on their march to Walsall they would acquit themselves as he expected they would.

The Departure

“Company! Right,” called Capt. Moore.

The sections responded with alacrity.

With their refills on their shoulders the company awaited “quick march”!

The order was given, and away they went. Capt. Moore led his men. Outside the Drill Hall large crowds greated the King’s Territorials, and at the junction with the main road it was with some difficulty that the Territorials squeezed their way through the space afforded them.

Rain was as the time falling in a drizzle, but it in no way abated the enthusiasm of the crowd.

High Street was reached, and the ten miles march to Walsall was commenced.

At many points relatives and friends wished a cordial “good bye” to those in the ranks.

The most remarkable thing which struck the looker-on was the extraordinary optimism which pervaded everybody – crowd and soldiers alike.

The route to Walsall was by way of Dudley. At Walsall, where they arrived soon after mid-day, the Brierley Hill Territorials were billeted at the Town Hall, pending the receipt of orders for their departure, on Thursday, to they knew not where.

The following were the officers and non-commissioned officers who left with the company:- Capt. W. E. Moore, Lieut. Allday, Sergt-Inst. Smith, Colour-Sergt. H. E. Bird, Sergts. Cook, W. Pargeter, J. Harper, Bretherton, and Hollings, Corpls. Vale, Skelton, Cox and Roberts, together with 104 rand and file, a total of 117 out of a strength of 121.

County Express 08 August 1914

Caption: Unfortunately the only photograph of the drill hall I have is this 1964 aerial shot of Brierley Hill. The Drill Hall is the white building in the lower left of the picture, next to the football ground. The area is now part of ASDA’s car park

Delph Roll of Honour discovered in church renovation

The second of the historic Great War documents discovered during renovation work at St Michael’s last week was the Delph Roll of Honour.

During the Great War the Delph was a very strong community in its own right. It had its own brickworks, mines, scouts, pubs (of course) and, importantly, church.

It was at the Mission Church that, on Sunday 15th June 1919, the congregation stayed behind after the evening service to consider how to commemorate Delph men who had served in the war.

The decision was taken to commission a font, at a cost of £100, as a memorial. to those who had fallen.

Additionally a manuscript roll of honour was to be inscribed with the names of those who had served. It was this roll of honour which has now come to light during restorations, fittingly taking place because of Delph man Tony Whittaker acting as benefactor, at St Michael’s Church. Here it is:


As in the case of the Brierley Hill Bible Class Roll of Honour the document is a historic record of those who served in the war – perhaps the only record given that most of the first world war service records were lost in a fire during the second world war. Again, the carefully handwritten words bring an extra emotion – of care and pride.

If you look closely you can see the shape of the frame which once contained the roll of honour.

The names which are underlined are of those who lost their lives. Their names are also recorded on the memorial which was commissioned at the same time.

The Delph Mission Church was demolished following subsidence. But the memorial was transferred to St Michael’s and now stands inside one of its foyers.


The font was moved too. It stands outside the front of St Michaels. Its inscription reads:

To the glory of God and in memory of the fallen heroes 1914–1919[0]


[0] So why 1919 and not 1918? Although the armistice took place on 11th November 1918, the war did not officially end until the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on 28th June 1919. With hindsight the treaty turned out to be deeply flawed and it became a key cause of the second world war. At the time there was jubilation and celebrations. In Brierley Hill a huge carnival took place to celebrate the signing. The Treaty is also commemorated on the stained glass window inside the church.

Historic Great War documents discovered during renovation works at St Michael’s

An email from Rev David Hoskin last Friday asked if it would be possible to pop up to St Michael’s. The church is undergoing some restoration work thanks to local benefactor Tony Whittaker. During the work Tony’s son had come across some old documents – relating to the Great War – lying under a pile of ‘junk’ on the church balcony. The press had been called and could I go up in case my recent research on the war memorial was helpful.

It was enormously exciting to see this terrific find.

There were two “Rolls of Honour”. These had been produced during and just after the Great War.

Many rolls of honour were drawn up during the war. These gave the names of local residents who had joined the forces and, as in these cases, also indicated the names of those who lost their lives.

They are an important historic record. The vast majority of first world war service records were lost in a fire during the second world war. So they can be the only record of who served. Schools, churches, works, sports teams…many produced these Rolls of Honours. Sadly many have now been lost.

The first Roll of Honour was that of the Fred James Bible Class – and here it is:


The County Express of 13th April 1918 carried a short report regarding the Roll of Honour:


What I find particularly moving is the great care that has been taken in writing the names. A very personal, human and caring touch which adds to the emotions reflected in the document. The beautiful colourful artwork by Fred H. L. Harris, a student of the Brierley Hill Art Classes, adds a very local dimension.

What a terrific find.

But there was more. The second find related to the Delph in Brierley Hill and was equally exciting. See the next post for more on this.

Minutes of the July Community First Brierley Hill meeting. Five grants awarded


Minutes of the meeting of Community First Brierley Hill held on Tuesday 15th July 2014 at St Michael’s Church commencing at 7pm.


David Hoskin, Peter Plant, Tim Sunter

As there were only three members of the panel present the meeting was not quorate. However, in view of the fact that there were five applications to be determined it was felt worthwhile to hold and minute the meeting and ask other members of the panel via email whether they agreed with the decisions.

Declarations of interest

David Hoskin declared an interest in the application from St Michael’s and did not take part in the discussion on this matter.

Minutes of the previous meeting

The minutes of the previous meeting were agreed as a true record.

Matters Arising

The recommendations of the panel from the previous meeting had been approved via email following requests for further information from applicants regarding where the target beneficiaries lived.

TS informed the panel that the CDF had indicated the panel had over allocated its funding for 2013–2014 by £67 and that they had therefore reduced the grant payable to Nine Locks Senior Citizen’s club by the equivalent amount.  The Senior Citizens Club have been informed regarding this.

TS had emailed the CDF regarding the concerns raised re Hawbush Urban Farm.


An email had been received regarding a possible further allocation of £1500 to the panel. This had to be bid for, with the criteria for success being a description of the best scheme for which the panel had recommended funding. The CDF were looking for schemes which had made an impact in the ward.

It was suggested that an email be sent to all of those recommended for grants asking if they wished to submit their project for this funding – and if the panel selected their scheme and it was successful then the funds should be allocated to that project for further work. The deadline for submission is 31st July.

Applications for funding

The panel carefull considered the applications received for funding. It was felt that all of the projects met the panel criteria and served the local population. It was therefore agreed (subject to consultation with missing panel members) to recommend the full amount requested by the following (click on link to see application):

Dates of Future Meetings

16th September
18th November

The legislative framework protecting Brierley Hill’s historic buildings.


In and around Brierley Hill we have 3 conservation areas, 2 scheduled ancient monuments, 10 grade II listed buildings and 25 locally listed buildings. It is important that we protect and preserve these. I wonder can you name them?

I couldn’t, although I had a good guess at some of them: St Michael’s Church, the Old Technical School and Library in Moor Street and I was also aware that the pair of shops (empty at the moment) next to St Mary’s Catholic Church on High Street were also listed.

The Brierley Hill Civic Society is concerned that the best of our heritage should be preserved.

But what to do?

To answer that question the Society invited Jayne Pilkington, Borough Conservation officer, to its meeting held in June 2014.

The legislative framework

Jayne commenced her talk with a run through the legislative framework to protect and conserve our heritage. This included:

The Red House Glass Cone is a scheduled ancient monument

St Michael’s church is one of Brierley Hill’s Grade II listed buildings

  • the local list of buildings and conservation areas.

The ‘Little Devils’ on Moor Street is locally listed because of its connections to historic local industry

To be placed on the statutory list, which were established by the Town and Country Planning Acts of 1945 and 1947 a building has to be of architectural interest, or historic interest (even so there has to be some quality of inteest in the physical fabric of the building itself to justify listing).

Being listed gives some protection to the building. You can’t just do what you want with it…you have to ask permission. English Heritage guidelines state:

“Listing does not freeze a building in time, it simply means that listed building consent must be applied for in order to make any changes to that building which might affect its special interest. Listed buildings can be altered, extended and sometimes even demolished within government planning guidance. The local authority uses listed building consent to make decisions that balance the site’s historic significance against other issues such as its function, condition or viability.”

Problems with the act

The problem is that the act assumes that all buildings dating from earlier than 1840 will qualify for listing. This arbritrary date presents problems for those towns – such as Brierley Hill – which developed during the industrial revolution.

This is where local listing and conservation areas come in. Local authorities are able to produce a local list of buildings it considers worthy of preservation, but which don’t quite make it to listed status’. The council’s website explains:

“Although controls are not as strict as those related to the statutory list the Council is committed to resisting proposals to demolish or adversely alter Locally Listed Buildings.”

Conservation areas are declared following a ’character appraisal of an area. You can read about how these are designated by clicking here.

In conservation areas the local authority you will need planning permission for:

  • changes to external features like doors and windows
  • satellite dishes
  • alterations to roofs
  • the demolition and erection of garden walls
  • building new structures or extensions
  • demolishing buildings.

So how does this affect Brierley Hill?

In Dudley borough

In Dudley borough there are:

Actually, Jayne didn’t make that last point. I did.

It concerns me that for all the legislation to protect buildings there still needs to be resources locally to do the enforcement. Dudley’s team is now one. I wonder if this is another hidden cutback we will come to regreat by the time it is too late.

On the following pages you will find more information about Brierley Hill’s buildings – at least one of which has now disappeared.

The Red Lion is part of Brierley Hill’s conservation area and is therefore afforded some protection

Read the Civic Society minutes: Clean Power, Bloom, The Plough, Royal Brierley and the Great War


Minutes of the meeting of Brierley Hill Civic Society held on Monday 21st July 2014 at St Michaels Church, Bell Street South, Brierley Hill.

Minutes of the previous meeting

The previous meeting had consisted of Jayne Pilkington’s talk of preserving local buildings

Clean Power

Tim Lee updated the meeting on Clean Power.

  • The deadline for the consultation on the Evironmental Permit had now closed.
  • 707 residents had voiced objections.
  • The SNOW website has been updated to include comments and information on the Permit application.
  • DMBC will put in their application once they see the full picture.
  • A new planning application is likely to be submitted should Clean Power successfully obtain an Environmental Permit.
  • Review of regeneration corridors being undertaken by the local authority still had the area zoned for industrial use whereas the local consensus would be for housing. Discussions were taking place with councillors re this matter.

Comment were made by members regarding the laying down of conditions to minimise the potential detrimentail effects of any development which may take place.

Brierley Hill in Bloom

TS gave an update on Brierley Hill in Bloom.

Despite considerable pesimism amongst members of the public when the plants were put out, only a small amount of vandalism had taken place – mainly following England football games. In view of this an extra 5% of plants would be grown for planting in the autumn to enable rapid replacement should any be disturbed.

The informal steering group had set some new objectives which were to have a new set of plants ready for October in the existing planters; to extend the scheme to infront of the College and the Health Centre; to extend further along the High Street utilising hanging baskets and vertical planters. This was dependent of sponsorship and applications for grant funding.

Discussion took place regarding the state of the local authority planters in front of the former bowling alley. The council had indicated that insufficient funds were available to put bedding plants here. A suggestion had been made that possibly these could be turfed over with a small border for bedding plants. This was being investigated. JS pointed out that previous initiatives to plant shrubs elsewhere in the borough had demonstrated the potential of these to become litter traps.

Whilst there was disappointment regarding the local authority planters the council had been extremely helpful in ensuring that the Brierley Hill in Bloom planters continued to be watered by scheduling the Scaramanda Road Sweeper to water the plants three days each week. This had reduced the burden on organisers to find volunteers enormously.

The Plough

TS reported back on his visit inside The Plough. It had been very sad as it still contained remnants of its life as a pub and it was very atmospheric.

The good news was that a planning application had been received to convert the building into residential accommodation whilst maintaining its historic aspect.

The planning application was enthusiastically supported by members present and it was agreed a letter of support should be sent to the planners.

Royal Brierley Crystal

TL reported on a visit he and the chair had recently made to view the works which were taking place to convert this Grade II listed building into 17 flats and 10 townhouses.

The scheme was impressive and a great deal of attempt had been made to preserve historic features such as the internal pulleys which had driven the machinary. It was noted that such a development in other parts of the country would attract very high prices for the accommodation.

It was agreed to write to the developer asking if the Society could visit the site as part of its September meeting.

Brierley Hill’s Great War

The main item on the agenda was a talk on Brierley Hill’s Great War. This covered:

  • The methodology for collecting information
  • Wordsley School’s interest in raising funds to restore Brierley Hill war memorial
  • Brierley Hill War Memorial; those named on it, the regiments they belonged to, the key engagements (such as the Hohenzollern Redbout), where they are burried or have a memorial (many have no known burial place).
  • The St Michael’s Church and Delph Church memorials
  • Brierley Hill on the outbreak of war
  • The role of local scouts in the campaign
  • Rolls of honour, including the two rediscovered during renovation works at St Michael’s last week
  • The Quarry Bank riots in protest at food rises as the beginning of the war
  • The Stoubridge Military Hospital, the convoys of wounded from Stourbridge Town station and the intriguing way in which The Talbot Hotel supported patients
  • Local aliens, spies and pigeon restrictions
  • How to protect agains Zeppelin attack
  • Food shortages and rationing – including an unsual ‘baby loan’ system for jumping queues
  • Restrictred water supplies.

Date of Next Meeting

There will be no August meeting. The next meeting will be held on Monday 15th September 2014 at 5.30pm.

The meeting closed at 7.30pm.

Brierley Hill’s Great War – Civic Society talk, Monday 21st, 5.30pm, St Michaels. All welcome.


The next meeting of Brieley Hill Civic Society will take place next Monday, 21st July at 5.30pm. All are welcome to attend.

Plans have been submitted to convert The Plough into four residential units, and there will be a report back on a visit Tim Lee and I made to the former Royal Brierley Crystal building. There will a chance to talk about these initiatives during the meeting.

The main time on the agenda will be a talk by your’s truly on Brierley Hill’s Great War.

I will be unlocking the secrets of Brierley Hill’s war memorial, telling the stories of some of the soldiers who never came home, and looking at the home front including recruitment, rationing, women’s employment, aliens and spies, the Quarry Bank riot and how to protect against Zeppelin attacks.

Hopefully you will find it enjoyable.

The agenda for the meeting is as follows:

  1. Apologies
  2. Minutes of the previous meeting – noting that the last meeting consisted of Jayne Pilkington’s talk.
  3. Matters Arising
  4. Treasurers report
  5. Clean Power
  6. The Plough
  7. Royal Brierley
  8. Talk: Brierley Hill’s Great War
  9. Bloom
  10. Future programme of work
  11. Any Other urgent business

Please note that we do not meet in August, and so our next meeting will be in September.

I do hope you will be able to make it on Monday.

Kind regards,

Brierley Hill in Bloom plans next steps


Plans are being drawn up to extend Brierley Hill in Bloom this autumn, building on the success of this summer’s project. An informal steering group – consisting of traders representatives, the market, the Civic Society, Stoubridge College and Dudley Council met yesterday lunchtime to plan a way forward.

These are the things we’ve learnt so far:

  • That the foundation students from the college have produced some fantastic displays, and these will last until around October time. Support from the college has been exceptional.
  • Despite widespread predications of mass vandalism very little (touch wood) has occurred. In future we need to plan for around an extra 5% of flowers to be grown so we can quickly replace any plants taken out.
  • Most vandalism occurs after England football games (why?)
  • The response from traders is good. As well as helping water the plants some stores such as Polly’s tea room for example has now put up its own display.
  • Sponsorship at £15 per trough is extremely good value for money and there is a willingness to support.
  • The enthusiasm to sponsor increased when traders saw the quality of what had been produced – so this is something to build on in the future.
  • Dudley Council has contributed to the scheme by ensuring the plants get watered – at 6am three times a week. They have also taken the risk on behalf of the community in respect of any claims. This is really good partnership working.
  • Community members are happy to water the plants too – which is something to build on.

So what’s next?

We’d agreed to start small at the Five Ways and build up. So we are thinking:

  • Extend along the High Street towards the Civic Centre using hanging baskets and stacked planters (possible four of the latter, two at each end of the town as ‘gateways’)
  • Plant near to Brierley Hill Health and Social Care Centre and the College.
  • Stick to the colour scheme (which fits in well with the street furniture and railings) of red and yellow, chosen because of the predominance of those colours in Brierley Hill’s coat of arms.

We also want to keep building links with schools. So far Brockmoor Primary School has come on board, but we would love others to get involved too.

All of this is, of course, dependent on getting resources to pay for the planters and plants.

There have been some very generous offers of support which we will take up. Some other potential funding sources have been identified and we’ll be drawing up grant applications.

For me, Brierley Hill in Bloom has been a highly visible statement that people DO CARE about our town. It has shown that positive things can happen and that we shouldn’t let a tiny majority of thoughtless vandals dominate our thoughts. We need to believe in ourselves and hopefully, on a small scale, this proves that when we do, we CAN make a difference.