Saturday, 3 March 2012

A (Very) Brief History of Walsall

Whenever I visit (or move to) somewhere new, I always try to learn something about it's history. It will probably sound incredibly flaky to most people, but it's the only way I know of connecting with a place. Until I know something of its past, I usually feel as if I'm just floating along the surface. I've lived in Walsall for almost ten years now, and during that time I've collected some interesting titbits about the area and its history. The information I've included here follows a route of sorts, and contains modern reference points. Hopefully, someone might read something they didn't know before.

If I've included anything here that's inaccurate, please let me know! All corrections and additions are welcome!

As with most English towns, the nucleus of Walsall was the church. St Matthew's Church (on the hill above ASDA) was originally called All Saints Church. Apparently, the name change occurred as a result of the fair that was licensed to be held in the church grounds on St Matthew's Day. There is a local belief that there are tunnels extending under the Church, which connect to The White Hart manor house in (Caldmore) and also to Barr Beacon. The belief is that the tunnels were used by priests during the Reformation and later by Royalists during the Civil War. However, I have my doubts as to the validity of this beliefs given the sheer distances involved. (Please correct me if I'm wrong though!)

There was once a densely populated area that surrounded St Matthew's, named St Matthew's Close. It was comprised of old houses, courtyards and narrow alleyways. This was demolished after World War Two, to be replaced by flats in the 1950s. There are Almshouses beneath the church (on Bath Street). The original building was erected during the Tudor Period, however the current structures were placed there during the Victorian period. There also used to be a graveyard beneath what is now the Bath Street Gardens.

Beneath the Church on the other side is Ablewell Street. This street dates back to the 13th Century and was referred to as Avalwalle, which is Norman and means 'Beneath the Wall'. The aforementioned wall comprised part of the defences that surrounded the Church and the settlement. If you look at the difference in height between the level of Lidl car park and the Church grounds, then you can imagine how formidable the wall must have been. The upper part of Ablewell Street was known as King Street, which is now included in the Springhill Road and Birmingham Road.

Heading down from Ablewell Street, you then reach Bridge Street. The road was cut in 1766 and was known as the New Road. It formed part of the main route from Walsall to Birmingham (much as it does today, really. The 51 still goes that way today). The old route to Birmingham went through Digbeth (the Market Place), then onto the High Street (where the Black Country Arms is), along Rushall Street (which runs past the top of The Hole in the Wall), and then joins Ablewell Street (the two roads meet at the corner of Flan O'Brien's Pub, which is opposite Warewell Street).

The old town 'Lock Up' used to stand on Ablewell Street, and part of the structure now forms the cellars of the shops around the Warewell Street area. (The old Police Station was on Goodall Street, not a million miles away from the Lock Up. The Old Court House was at the bottom of Bridge Street, and is now a Wetherspoons pub. So you can sort of see how they all connected.)

Warewell Street (there is now a car park beside it) used to have a well beside it. It also boasted a Saddlers Ironmongery Works.

My favourite street around the Chuckery area was probably Dark Lane. It no longer exists so it has an air of mystery to it! Dark Lane was a narrow cart track that ran from the Sutton Road (going up Ablewell Street, the Sutton Road begins at the point where the 77 route deviates from the 51 route), across the Chuckery and came out at the top of Holtshill Lane (this is the road that opens up on Lower Rushall Street, opposite the back of Morrisons). Lower Rushall Street was a major route both in an out of Walsall, and as a result boasted dozens of inns and coach houses.

Lower Rushall Street originally ran past the Chamber of Commerce and Kwik Fit (instead of running off toward the traffic lights). It then ran straight through the Hatherton Lake and then went on to Lichfield. (There used to be toll gate along this road, and was called the Butts Toll Gates. Its stood at a point that is now at the centre of the lake.) On the rising ground to the east of the lake (somewhere along Arboretum Road) was Reynold's Hall, a large manorial complex. Arboretum Road was a continuation of Persehouse Street, presumably until the construction of the Broadway. (The Broadway originally just ran from the Lichfield road to Rowley Street, and was called Denmark Road. It was extended a little in the 1890s, and this addition was known as Foden Road.)

The area around the Hatherton Lake was once owned by the Reynolds family, but by the 1550s the land had been transferred to the Persehouse family.

The Reynolds estate comprised a farm and a hall. The hall had three parlours, nine bedrooms, three garrets, a brew house, a dairy house, a malt house, a dove house and a coach house. As I said, this was around Arboretum Road. The last person to live in Reynolds Hall was Richard Persehouse. The estate then passed to his godson, John Walhouse. Walhouse passed over the hall in favour of constructing a town house. This town house was on Lichfield Street, and the Chicago Rock Cafe was actually a part of this building.

There is a glacial boulder in the park (it now stands beside the Bandstand). This glacial rock travelled from North Wales during the Ice Age and ended up in the Fulbrook area. It was moved to the Arboretum in 1925. This boulder was known as the Devil's Toe Nail, and it was believed that if it was ever broken, it was grow back to it's original shape and size. As a result of its name and reputation, local children were once reluctant to go near it.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Friendship & Generosity

As the title suggests, this blog post is going to be a huge, mushy love in - so be prepared!  I just thought it might remind everyone that there are some truly lovely, generous and wonderful people in the world...

This Thursday just gone by, my wonderful friend, we shall call her Lady Anonymouse, gave me - yes, GAVE ME - a little, mini laptop computer!  It came complete with a power attachment thingy and an external disc drive.  Lady Anonymouse wanted nothing in return for the computer, there were no hidden catches or obligations (for those cynical souls that were wondering), it was a gift - plain and simple!

It was very gratefully received (I'm in the local wi-fi spot typing this entry on it right now!), and I just wanted to share a little bit of the love I felt with the rest of you!  Here it is... sharing it!  Feel the loving mush!

In fact, it gets better!  Upon the receiving the computer, my neighbour (a computer genius by all accounts) kindly looked at it for me, and turned it into an Internet surfing, document writing Mega-Machine!  He didn't ask for anything in return either.  He did it all because he's a lovely person!

So this is a Love In, and a bit of an online thank you to the lovely people I am fortunate enough to have in my life!  See?  There is such a thing as community, and I'm very fortunate to be a part of one...

The computer genius runs the All Gaming Blog - find him on Twitter @AllGamingBlog.  There's a forum, reviews, videos, and I'm sure if you ask, computer-related advice!  His amazing fiance runs The All Craft Blog (Twitter - @Theallcraftblog).  It's a place to share your crafty interested and to view the crafts and 'makes' (that's a proper crafting term, that is!) of others!

Anonymouse does have a blog and a Twitter account, but she's quite a private person, and I'm not certain whether she'd appreciate me promoting her stuff here...  Suffice it to say she's quite wonderful!

This is turning into a Disney Chick Flick now, isn't it?  I'll end on a car chase and big explosion to redeem myself a bit... Ready?

*ahem*  ...VROOOOOOOM!  VRROOOOOOOMMM!  squeaaaaaaaak (Brakes, those are brakes!)  Vrooom - vrooom!  VRRROOOOOOOOOOMM! BIG BANG!

There you go!  Roll end credits...

Friday, 2 December 2011

Abandoned Cats - Comment by Sarah!

This comment was left on the blog-post I made about Abandoned cats.  I think the information is really useful, so I've turned it into an actual post!  Thanks to Sarah for writing it and giving me permission to include her comment here! ;-)

Good for you! We got asked by the local shelter to take on 6 feral kitties whose feral mum had done a runner, so they could be socialised enough to be homeable [I used to work there so I'm muggins] - we ended up keeping 3. Kittens aren't going out like they used to, not in this economic climate. And they are expensive to neuter and have vaccinated [specially round here where feline leucaemia is endemic and an expensive extra vaccination]. The RSPCA DO offer a free neutering service though, and sometimes so does the Cat Protection League, or at least some help with it. It's always worth while asking! We prefer to save up and stick with our own vet but we have a large enough house that over winter it's no hardship for those waiting to be done [and I like girls to be about 7-9 months anyway so they're a bit bigger].
Can I mention that ebay gives the opportunity to donate an extra pound or two to cat shelters when you buy through them. It's called Cat Chat

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Abandoned Cats and What to Do

I promised I was going to write this yesterday, but I failed to realise that all the librarians had gone on strike too, and so couldn't get at a computer!  (Power to the people, anyway!)

In a way I'm grateful for the delay, as it's given me time to think.  Initially, I was going to write the standard, 'cats are often abandoned and this is bad' thing - but that's been done to death!  Instead I thought I'd write a small piece on how to care for said cats if and when you find some...

We've lived in our flat for about four years now, and in that time we've had eight cats dumped on us.  (Two litters, four kittens each... sounds less dramatic that way - but hey!)  The first litter were split in half.  We took two in, and our neighbour took in the other two.  The two we had were pretty sick initially (and the two we didn't take in eventually got dumped again later on anyway.  So we also ended up with those two cats).  The frist two kittens were eight weeks old, had severe worms, fleas, weren't completely weaned for some reason, and were under-nourished.

The first step (obviously) is to obtain a litter tray, some litter, and some cat food.  Irrespective of whether or not you intend to keep the kittens long-term, I'd recommend getting these things at the very least!  I'd also suggest you buy some Lactol - this is basically follow-on milk for cats.  It contains a good mixture of nutrients and settles a kitten's stomach really well!  You can buy this stuff from most supermarkets and petshops.

I would recommend calling the RSPCA and Cat Protection League as soon as possible - if merely to inform them of the fact that you've found some kittens or a cat.  A cat might well be microchipped - so I'd take the cat straight to your local vet so they can scan for any ID!  Here is my only caveat - Don't be surprised if the RSCPA, vets and cat rescue people tell you that they cannot take the cats/kittens off your hands.  They're usually over-run with strays and abandoned cat, and sometimes simply don't have the resources to take any more in.  You might well have to care and re-home the little critters yourself!

So, take them to your local vets.  If they are micro-chipped, then the vets will usually take them off your hands and set about reuniting them with their owners.  HowEver, if not, you'll probably have to take them home again.

The first two kittens we had needed treated for their fleas and worms, and we also had their first round of vaccinations done.  In addition to the standard medical stuff, the vet can also begin to spread the word that you have kittens that need re-homing, and if needs be, they might well know of an independant re-homing centre or foster care network that can take the kittens off your hands.

If you can get them moved on, great!  If not, you might have some little furry guests for a while!  Don't panic!  Kittens are pretty easy to look after once they're healthy.  They need food, the litter cleaning out, and some supervision (the second litter of kittens we had used to climb the curtains on occasion!).  But other than that, they're pretty low maintanance.  They're also fun and desperately cute!  I coped with eight cats and I'm severely allergic to them, so it can be done!  Just don't let the kittens outside until they're fully vaccinated!

When trying to rehome your kittens, ask everyone!  Put notices up at your local vets, let your friends, family and colleagues know and ask them to spread the word.  I would recommend that you don't give the kittens away for free.  A willingness to invest money in a pet from the very beginning shows the prospective owner's dedication to caring for their pet.  We asked for £30 per kitten.  You don't have to ask that much, but we were also caring for the mother cat, and were putting the money toward having her spayed.

I suppose that leads to the last piece of advice.  Always make sure the prospective owners you find for your stray cats are willing to have them neutered and vaccinated.  Otherwise you just end up with more homeless kittens!

So that's it!  Hope it helps!  Just remember, if you do find any stray cats/kittens contact the RSPCA and your local vets as soon as possible, they offer better advice than me at the end of the day!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

First Ever Post... About Craft Central!

So I'm currently sat in my neighbour and friend's flat setting up a blog instead of doing all the other things I'm actually meant to be doing.  I do this sort of thing a lot!  I've decided that my first blog post should be about my aforementioned friend, as she lives in Craft Central - the spiritual home of all crafts!

My friend set up back in August (we think... probably), and since then she has established a network of Crafters over various social networking sites, and has encouraged even the most idle and flighty of souls ( to do something creative!  (If you want to cheap laugh, some of my attempts at arts and crafts are up on the site...  Go on, you know you want to!)

The All Craft Blog is pretty self-explanatory, but I intend to give you small idea of what Craft Central is like!

At some point in the distant past, my neighbour used to have a living room.  Now it's a workshop with a sofa and TV in it!  There's a sewing machine on the dining table, jars full of buttons, beads, and various charms dotted around, there's bags full of felt and sections of various fabrics everywhere... there's a guillotine (like the ones you used to get in school!), homemade bunting, embroidery hoops, threads, and ribbons!  I'm out of breath and I still haven't covered everything!

At the moment, my neighbour is working on a Recycle and Re-use Christmas.  She's currently making little felt Christmas trees, complete with beads for decoration and little felt stars on top, and is also making festive bunting adorned with something called a Blanket Stitch!

Basically, I thought I'd dedicate this first post to my Craft Central for two reasons.  Firstly, my neighbour let me set up this blog on her computer, as I don't have one (we don't back in the Dark Ages), and secondly, because I truly love the enthusiasm and passion she has for Craft Central!  Whilst it's true she has spent some money on all the various materials she uses, it's the energy and time she puts into making stuff that really astonishes me.  I mean, who wouldn't want to receive a hand-made gift for Christmas?  Especially a personalised gift that's been made by a friend?

Not only that, but she showcases the work of others for free!  In the words of my neighbour, 'It's all good!'

So, this has been my first ever blog post!  If you like the sound of The All Craft Blog, then please go and pay the site a visit!  (I'm not certain whether or not the link to the site will work from here, but you can copy and paste it into a search engine!  I won't even charge you for doing it, I'm that nice!)

Apologies for any typos or grammatical errors... but my editorial team is comprised of a cat and a stuffed toy named Jupiter.  True story.