BLACK COUNTRY SOCIETY NEWS ARCHIVE

15.11.2017 - Museum Calls for Memories of Historic Gas Showroom

 

Do you remember the Gas Showroom in the 1940s, 50s & 60s?

Get in touch with the Museum via collections@bclm.com, call 0121 557 9643 or visit bclm.com/MyBlackCountryStory to fill out a form or for more information.

Black Country Living Museum has launched an appeal for memories of the Gas Showroom on West Bromwich High Street between 1940s-60s.

The Gas Showroom, which is in the process of being taken down, will be recreated at the Museum in a 1940s-60s town as part of the Museum’s £21.7m Forging Ahead development, using key architectural elements saved from the demolition such as the staircase.

Built in 1930 and closing in 1971, the building was the chief office, show room and distribution department of the West Bromwich Gas Department. The main part of the building was a smartly-decorated showroom, highlighting the gas fires, cookers and lights for sale, hire-purchase or rent.

Jonathan Wilson, Deputy Chief Executive (Collections, Learning & Research) at BCLM said: “The Gas Showroom in one of the key buildings of our new historic town as it gives us the opportunity to tell a range of story from the 40s to the 60s from the bombing of the Black Country in World War Two to Cannon’s innovation in gas cookers – and allows us to recreate 1950s cookery demonstrations. Whilst we won’t be able to take it down ‘brick-by-brick’ due to its condition, we will be saving all that we can including several memorable architectural elements.

We have already had a 96 year old gentlemen, Ernie Timmins, come forward who remembers the building at the beginning of WW2, including the day it was bombed in November 1941. We need more memories like this to help us complete the picture and bring the building to life.”

Demolition work is expected to be completed by March 2018. The Gas Showroom is expected to be recreated at the Museum - along with the rest of the new development - by 2022.

NEWS - 16.11.2017

PRESTIGIOUS AWARD

The Black Country Society sends its congratulations to Dudley's Keeper of Geology, Graham Worton who has been awarded the Brighton Medal, given every three years to a geological curator, by the outgoing chair of the Geological Curators’ Group, which is affiliated to the Geological Society of London.  The award was set up in 1992 in memory of Bertie Brighton, a curator of the Sedgwick Museum, who through his lifetime catalogued more than 375,000 specimens at a rate of more than 10,000 a year and was known for his inspirational teaching.

Graham has been a good friend of the Black Country Society, leading many walks and giving excellent talks, both in the Society's lecture programme and at the Black Country History Day at the University of Birmingham.  He has worked tirelessly to get the importance of the Black Country's geological and cultural heritage recognised both nationally and internationally.  A well deserved award.

NEWS 15.11.2017 - Black Country Living Museum

The £21.7m project BCLM: Forging Ahead forms Phase One of the Museum’s 40 year Masterplan and will see the Museum expand by a third by 2022, transforming the site with a new major historic development focused on the period 1940s-1960s and improved visitor facilities.

In addition to the Gas Showroom, other buildings that the Museum has identified for translocation include:

  • Woodside Library (Stourbridge Road, Woodside, Dudley)

  • William Griffin & Sons Proving House (Woods Lane, Cradley Heath)

  • J H Lavender Aluminium Foundry (Crankhall Lane, West Bromwich)

Buildings that the Museum has identified for recreation using archival material and images include:

  • Elephant & Castle Pub (Wolverhampton)

  • NHS Infant Welfare Clinic) (Wolverhampton)

  • Stanton’s Records (Hall Street, Dudley)

Buildings that the Museum has identified for replication include:

  • Burgin’s Newsagents (Wolverhampton Street, Dudley)

  • Marsh & Baxter’s Pork Butchers (Lye)

  • Laurie Thomas Hairdressers (Tividale Road, Tipton)

  • A West Bromwich Building Society Branch (Cape Hill, Smethwick, 1957)

These developments will provide a ‘stage’ on which to explore questions around several themes including:

  • Legacy – contextualising the region’s continuing legacy in its rich industrial past

  • Migration – exploring the origins of the richly diverse population we see today

  • Movement – looking at the movement of the goods and services around the world and the impact of globalisation on industry

  • Innovation and entrepreneurship – nurturing entrepreneurs and manufacturers of the future through a programme of inspirational steam activities

  • Real lives, real stories – achieving authenticity in the portrayal of the stories of the people of the Black Country through academic research and a deep understanding of the people who once lived and worked there.

The hugely ambitious scheme will be supported by a number of bodies including the Heritage Lottery Fund, Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership and Arts Council England as well BCLM’s own investment.

BLACK COUNTRY SOCIETY - 50th Anniversary Celebrations

 

Following on from the unveiling of the Blue Plaque on the Noah’s Ark pub in Tipton, marking the inaugural meeting of the Black Country Society, celebratory events for the Society’s 50th Anniversary have come thick and fast across the summer.  Organised by the Society’s Chairman, James Morgan, James guiding principle was to ‘give something back to our members’.  Therefore the events were free and open to all who applied (a lucky draw system was used where they were oversubscribed).  They proved to be a light hearted celebration of the both the Black Country Society and the Black Country itself.

On a glorious June day, when Himley Hall and its grounds were bathed in sunshine, afternoon tea was taken by 100 of our members in the splendour of what was once the Earl’s swimming pool – its Art Deco interior now restored to its former glory.  We were joined in this celebration by the Mayor and Mayoress of Dudley, the Mayor and Mayoress of Walsall, the Deputy Mayor of Sandwell and her Consort and the Deputy Mayor and Mayoress of Wolverhampton.  Those who had been instrumental in the production of the Society’s latest best seller, ‘The Tommy Mundon Story’- writer Angela Daniels and James’ son Will Morgan, with his business partner, Daniel Williams, who had sponsored the book - were also present to see a cheque for more than £10,000 handed over to a representative from Mary Stevens Hospice.  Val Mundon, Tommy’s widow, was also in attendance.

 

Ned Williams gave an address, remembering the early day of the Black Country Society, a very exciting time when he felt ‘characters’ abounded and ‘foreigners’ included not just himself from London, but those in neighbouring boroughs, at a time when much local government reorganisation was taking place.  He highlighted the various sub-committees that were set up as people followed their enthusiasms and interests, including pigeon and whippet racing.  Ned’s talk was followed by a ‘Flanders and Swann’ tribute act, James Mitchell and Graham Connor, during which the audience joined in enthusiastically with the likes of ‘The Hippopotamus Song’, ‘The Gasman Cometh’ and ‘The Gnu’.

 

The next event, in early July, took place at the Black Country Living Museum, where, in recognition of the Society’s role in the founding of the Museum and its continuing interest in it, Chief Executive, Andrew Lovett, had provided 100 free tickets and 50 half-price ones, so that all members who had applied were able to attend and see what had grown out of that early Society vision of a Museum of the Black Country.  Again the weather was kind and Black Country Brass played in Folkes Park during the afternoon and just before the evening event, where James had provided us with a range of further entertainers.  The Fizzogs dropped in as the ‘Dancing Grannies’, ably assisted by Councillor Dave Tyler, the Mayor of Dudley, who sportingly joined in when dragged to the floor.  Black Country raconteur, John Sparry, amused the audience with his droll take on Black Country Life, illustrated by artefacts which would not have looked out of place in the Museum itself and the buffet was served accompanied by Barry Smith from Blackheath, an accordionist whose repertoire included tunes those of us who listened to ‘Uncle Mac’ on the radio as children, would have recognised.

 

This year’s President, Keith Hodgkins, himself a very early member of the Society, in his address reminded current members that the Black Country Society is not just a history society, but was set up to be interested in ‘the past, the present and the future of the Black Country,’ and urged that this mission should not be forgotten.

 

The Society’s magazine, ‘The Blackcountryman’, is also celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.  It is the way in which we keep in touch with our 1500 members, many of whom are ex-pats and therefore unable to join us for events.  Our advertisers and regular contributors to the magazine are therefore very important to the Society and, with this in mind, they were invited to two ‘thank you’ events - a tour of Holden’s Brewery at Woodsetton in July and a wine tasting event at Halfpenny Green vineyard in August.

 

Holden’s are both long-term advertisers and very proud of their Black Country roots.  Their tour, led by a guide who was previously employed at the Bottle and Glass pub at the Black Country Museum, was a lively affair, accompanied by much Black Country banter and humour.  The brewing process was explained as we toured the building, with a tasting session included at the end.

 

The final event of the summer, again bathed in sunshine, was a tour of Halfpenny Green vineyards where we were able to view the grapes ripening in the sun and see the winery which produces between 50-60,000 bottles of English wine each year.  Further information was provided by a slide show as we tasted wines including Black Country Gold, Mercia and Penny Red, followed by afternoon tea in the restaurant.

 

The committee of the Black Country Society are grateful to the 50th Anniversary subcommittee of James Morgan, Dr David Cox, Mike Pearson and Judith Watkin for their efforts in organising the celebrations.           

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