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Friday, 24 October 2014
Thursday, 25 September 2014
A couple of months ago we visited Bromford rolling mill in West Bromwich; above is how it looked in the late 1980s from the air, the Birmingham to Wolverhampton canal cutting through the site, which opened in 1777. But Bromford mill is older than the canal, and was there using the waters of the River Tame from at least the early 1600s. The river is just out of shot at the bottom of the image. Bill Venables, who has worked at Bromford for the last 30 years, showed us around the mill.
Up until the late 20th century there were a number of industries that could trace their roots back to medieval mills along the river, but all but one, Bromford, have gone now. Photos below by Ian Stenson (visit his website here).
Photos above by Ian Stenson, visit his website: http://ianstenson.photodeck.com/-/galleries/tame-past-present-future
|From Men & Things of Modern England, 1858.|
|Map from the 1880s showing Bromford Iron Works. GREEN shows the canal and the site|
of the new Bromford Iron Works. BLUE shows the River Tame and the site of the original
water powered mill.
Tuesday, 9 September 2014
A few weeks ago, Jenni and some of our Tame Past Present Future volunteers took a stroll around Witton and along the Tame towards Salford Bridge, now situated underneath Spaghetti Junction. We will be producing a heritage walk through the area, so we were testing the route, finding out about the history, as well as using Phyllis Nicklin's photographs from the 1960s to explore how the area has changed. Nicklin was a geography lecturer at Birmingham University in the 1950s and 1960s, and as part of her work she took hundreds of images around Birmingham. We've pinpointed those taken in Witton and along the River Tame, and during the walk everyone was clicking away recording the industry in the area, and also trying to retake Nicklin's images.
Here is a selection of Phyllis Nicklin's photographs and the images taken by myself and our volunteers as we walked around the area.
HOCKLEY BROOK, SALFORD: EARLY 1963 & AUGUST 2014
The original image (see above) shows the River Tame flowing beneath the old canal bridge. The Hockley Brook, which was clearly visible joining the river in 1963, is now obscured by greenery.
|By Albert Blakeway|
GEC IN WITTON FROM DULVERTON ROAD: 1968 & 2014
The following two images show the entrance to Witton's GEC, that in 1964 employed about 9000 people. Today (2014) the GEC is closed and most of its buildings have been demolished; though, the main building is listed, a gate post remains, as does a rather shabby looking electric lamp post (one of presumably many that would have lined the entrance). Around the back, along the canal, a chimney stands too.
|GEC from Dulverton Road by Albert Blakeway|
|GEC from Dulverton Road by Si Hope|
|GEC from Dulverton Road by Jen Dixon|
TAME VALLEY CANAL, SALFORD: 1968 & 2014
The Tame Valley Canal follows the river, on and off, from Wednesbury. Here it cuts to the rear of the GEC in Witton and joins the Grand Union and the Birmingham & Fazeley canals at Salford Junction, now underneath Spaghetti Junction.
Sunday, 27 July 2014
We will be adding all of the industries we find along the River Tame to our 'Industrial River Tame' Map, so you can find out more about each of them, see pictures and link back to the blog for more detailed information. Click on the coloured pins and information pops up (see below).
here, to find out how to make your own map click here.
Saturday, 26 July 2014
|Musk mallow was once one of many|
'principal plants' along the river; many
have disappeared due to industry,
urban change and river realignment.
A number of factors have meant that over the past few hundred years the River Tame has lost a great deal of its original wildlife and plant-life. In 1886 there was a survey conducted regarding Birmingham's natural habitats, and a little bit was written about the fish the Tame:
“Of the River Tame, a well known angler states: “In my opinion this is a remarkable little river; in three and a half miles it contains in abundance at least ten species of fish, viz., trout, pike, chub, tench, perch, roach, rudd, dace, gudgeon, minnow, all of which, except the pike, attain a size equal to any in rivers or pools in a hundred miles of Birmingham.” Large fish are not so common now as formerly, but probably this river will recover, and attain its wonted excellence, when the ‘Black Country’ sewerage works are completed”.
"PROBABLY THIS RIVER WILL RECOVER"
By this time it was becoming very obvious that the industry and urban growth along the River Tame was causing a decline in the fish; from the 1850s there were complaints from some of the great houses of the gentry that had enjoyed abundant fish, but were now noticing a decline in the river's health, and that of the animals it supported. In the archives of Birmingham and the Black Country are a large number of documents referring to the correspondence between these landed gentry and the local councils who were being asked to put a stop to the pollutants being put into the river. Industry was a large factor, and the chemicals washed away by the river, but also, the river was being constantly re-aligned, and plant-life was removed meaning that the more delicate species died out on the river.
|Dyer's Weld, another old Tameside|
Within the 1886 survey it was seem worthy to list the botanical species that you could find along the River Tame; some of these have not just vanished from the banks of the Tame, but from England altogether. The list of the 'principal plants' of the river is below (I have begun adding common names, as these were not included in the original survey).
"TAME. – This sub-district includes Walsall, Lichfield, Shenstone, Barr and Handsworth. The surface rocks are Trias, Permian and Coal measures, and the limestones of Walsall, Rushall, and Hay Head. The greatest elevation is Barr Beacon. Both the source and the mouth of the Tame are within the limits of this sub-district. The principal plants are:--
thalictrum flavum (meadow rue) : arabis perfoliata (tower mustard) : cardamine amara (large bittercress) : cardamine impatiens (narrowleaf bittercress) : nasturtium sylvestre (creeping yellow cress) : teesdalia nudicaulis (shepherd’s cress) : reseda luteola (dyer’s weld) : silene noctiflora (night flowering catchfly/clammy cockle (similar to campion)) : malva moschata (musk mallow*) : erodium cicutarium (redstem filaree/common stork’s-bill/pinweed) : genista anglica (petty whin/needle furze/needle whin) : lathyrus nissola (grass vetchling) : orobus tuberosus : prunus insitatia P. padus : geum rivale : rosa subglobosa : rosa micrantha : rosa collina : rubus suberectus R. rhamnifolius : pyrus aria : sedum telephium : saxifrage granulata : chrysosplenium alternifolium : parnassia palustris : helosciadium repens : myrrhis odorata : apium graveolens : OEnanthe crocata : dipsacus pilosus : valerianella denata : gallium witheringii : campanula trachelium C. Latifolia C. Patula : solanum nigrum (black nightshade) : linaria minor : veronica buxbaumii V. Montana V. Scutellata V. Anagallis : limosella aquatica (water mudwort) : pinguicula vulgaris (common butterwort) : utricularia vulgaris : lysimachia vulgaris : centunculus minimus : parietaria officinalis : ulmus Montana : salix pentandra : acorus calamus : epipactis palustris : convallaria majalis : typha augustipholia : lemna gibba : narthecium ossifragum : colchicum autumnale : scirpus sylvaticus S. Caespitosus : carex pallescens C. Pseudo-cyperus : calamagrostis epegejos C. Lanceolatus : milium effusum : avena pubescens : triticum caninum : asplenium ruta-muraria : aspidium lobatum : osmunda regalis"
Thursday, 17 July 2014
|You can only glimpse the Ford Brook at it passes under Mill Lane,|
as it is fenced and you can't follow it either way.
Yesterday we went to the local history centre in Walsall, and afterwards I decided to take a walk and try and follow the Ford Brook, a tributary of the Tame, and once called 'Tame' itself, down to Bescot Station and the main River Tame. I had no idea if it was possible. At the history centre I had got talking to a man called Jack Haddock, a gentleman probably in his 90s who had lived nearby all his life, and told me that locally the brook had been called 'Butts Cut', though he had no idea why.
NB: This route is along residential areas and used footpaths, but some areas are VERY off the beaten track. I am not promoting this as a walk, just describing its existence.
The journey began with a mini fish&chips at 'Mr Chips', and a sit down in the local park to plot a route to the brook. I suspected Mill Lane would be a good place to begin and there found Mill Lane Nature Reserve, which contained everything but the brook as the railroad cut between the two. I have later found that if you follow the nature reserve the railway veers off towards Aldridge and you can walk to Goscote Valley where you can follow the brook upstream towards its source. But I was following the flow of the water downstream where apple trees were growing out of reach amongst the strike of green lining the railway tracks.*
The brook briefly interrupts Mill Lane near a road called 'The Cutting', and you can see it each side of the road, wide and flat (see above). The information board at the nature reserve had explained that Mill Lane was originally a cartway to 'Butt's Mill', a place that had all but disappeared by Jack's time, yet the name had obviously been passed down to him. You can't follow the brook downstream here as it is fenced all the way round, so I followed the idea of it down Cecil Street* and found it again through an archway marked '1993' down to Lower North Street. Again, it was fenced all along, and channeled through a concrete culvert (see below). Here it brushes shoulders with the railway, then is directed beneath the street and into a private car park, before being sent underground.
Further down, into the centre of Walsall, a Victorian pub called the 'Tap & Tanner' serves as a reminder of the leather tanning industry, and of the forgotten brook that flows somewhere here, underground. And then there is Bridge Street, a now obsolete name that lets you know your on the right route.*
Walsall town centre seems to bear little resemblance to my aging A-Z, but I find my way through with help to where the brook emerges again on Fairground Way (see below). Nearby is the regular and familiar thump of a manufactory, Walsall Pressings Co, that supply car parts, mainly for Jaguar, a Tameside presence since the 1940s.
Again, you can't follow the brook, but must navigate through the streets (Bradford Street, Wednesbury Road & Bescot Cresent to be exact) lined with remnants of 20th century industry. The Walsall Lithographic Company has been converted, with a painted advert preserved on the side, and the Crown Works (below) is now the Abu Bakr Trust School for girls; school had just finished and girls were laughing and chatting outside.
The brook flows through a channel of trees parallel with the Bescot Cresent (see below), which is quite industrial; music pumps out of one warehouse and a kind of low hum from another.
As the road curves, the brook is taken under a pretty bridge and follows on its way towards the motorway, which can be seen and heard just in the distance. Just behind the bridge is a narrow footpath, un-signposted and uncertain, but it follows the river so I took the route. The brook flows gently at one side, its calm broken only by a towering billboard for the benefit of motorway traffic: "Boundary Mill Stores M6 J10- Fashion and Home Shopping- up to 75% off RRP". At its bend is the railroad, the wheels of the trains clunking past at eye level, and another warning sign- "TO PREVENT INJURY DO NOT CLIMB FENCE". You can still follow the brook, it goes round to where the Willenhall Tame flows in under the railway bridge to join it from the right. This is the Tame now, and the waters of the brook have been upgraded to 'river' status, and they proudly march off in the other direction (see below). It is a choice of battling through dense undergrowth to follow the river, or allow yourself to be directed under the M6 knowing that the river will meander back.
Beneath the motorway there are two routes, and two rivers. Here, the Oldbury Tame slides in quietly from the west along the railway tracks, and you can follow it back; I took this route for a short distance, up a stairway to the motorway winding me up to the top of the M6 where I could meet eyes with the lorry drivers in their trucks. The wind pushed from both sides, from the trains passing below and the traffic on the road, and the bridge rumbled and shook with each large vehicle. Below you could see Bescot Junction, which can be seen briefly from the M6 as you drive by, and the vast expanse of waste land between here and Church Hill in Wednesbury (see both below). I've been to this waste, last year; I was looking for the river in the wrong place. There was once a works, but only rubble and crumbling walls remain, and now the great mounds of rubble are used by quad bikers or the similar, much to the efforts of the landowner to prevent it.
It is just down from here that this Tame meets the first, both circle a concrete island under the motorway and emerge to join in the open (see below).
This river is now just the Tame, and flows into the distance at the side of the motorway; Bescot Station was just to the right, the iron bridge leading from the street route (see below). I caught the train home, the river passing two, three, maybe four times, back and forth beneath the railway.
Monday, 7 July 2014
|Bill Bowen walked from Wales to the Midlands in the 1930s|
to find work.
In the 1950s Bill Bowen began working at Bromford Iron & Steel Co. Ltd, West Bromwich; how he got there is recalled by workmate, another Bill- Bill Venables. “He had been born in the Rhondda Valley but left there in the 30s at the time of the depression and walked up to the Midlands to find work.” Bill Venables tells us that “he was our hardest working labourer who had enormous muscles and strength, and was a fairground prize-fighter in his younger days to help feed his family”. “After finishing his day shift on Fridays he contracted to dig all the millscale out of the water pits at 4/6d per ton and load it into skips. He did all this by hand with a No 10 shovel and a wheelbarrow and used to work all the way through until Sunday afternoon before walking home. A No 10 shovel could hold half hundredweight of millscale at a time and only he could lift it. In his final two years at Bromford he was put in charge of the new mess rooms and showers and woe betide anyone leaving a mess because he used to thump them”.
Monday, 30 June 2014
We will be adding all of the industries we find along the River Tame to our 'Industrial River Tame' Map. Take a look to find out what we have been looking at so far.
We will be adding lots of information and photos, much of which will link back to here so that you can find out more.
If you would like to add to these industries, you can. Please email Jenni: firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.