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The Quarry Bank walk - June 5th 2024

Following the route of the walk surveyed by Ned Williams and John James. 2001 – see here. Dave Galley wrote the following report of the 2024 walk in which the 2001 walk stops are shown in bold italics.

Quarry Bank History Society was very active around the millennium. One of its most active members was John James, You could call him Mr. Quarry Bank or perhaps Mr. Here, There and Everywhere because he seemed to turn up at so many societies and events. His role in the Black Country Society was just an ordinary member who made his contribution to the Society through his camara lens and knowledge of the railways which as a signalman he knew well. I wanted to do a walk to remind those new to the society that ordinary members can make contributions to the Society just like John did.

What was going to be a walk around Quarry Bank did end up being six separate walks and all having reminders of John, and I came across his name as having surveyed this walk with Ned Williams I thought that'll do, so a couple of recce walks beforehand and it was all systems go.

So far, the weather has been kind to us this year, There were about thirty members assembled on the carpark - far less than the seventy twenty-three years ago.

Car park created at the junction of Park Road and High Street

Next door to the carpark was Jantino's mentioned in John’s Walk built on the site of Hawkeswood Hardware shop and yard The developer has shown some respect for local history by calling this Hawkeswood Lodge. It was a pity that their very fine display of ladies' fashions could not be seen behind the security shutters when the shop was closed at night because I was really impressed by what I saw on my recce walk the previous day - just the right clobber for Ascot or a wedding.

The Church Yard at Christ Church

Moving on to the Church. On the right-hand side we saw the grave of Charles Godfrey. When he died in1900 he was the star of the Victorian theatre world - now he is unknown. But now we have computers to find out more about him. An actor, an entertainer with a fine baritone voice, He was born in London. He died in Brierley Hill while touring midland theatres. By the time he died the demon drink had caught up with him and it was thanks to his friends he was able to have a decent funeral.

Church Street passing the Nail maker - originally the Church Tavern.

 Come forward 23 years and it is now called The Church Tavern again. The reason for the name change was because an entrepreneur bought it and named all his pubs with a connection to nail making.

Coppice Lane

Having Crossed Coppice Lane and taken the footpath to Ladywood Close, or as they say in Quarry Bank Snicket, we arrive at the top of the real Merry Hill with its cluster of Scots Pine trees. They must have been there growing in2001 perhaps not really large enough to be noticed then but now they are forming a distinct landmark like Frankley Beeches or Barr Beacon

The next instruction read. Turn right across the grass to Robin Hood Road. Dive up the entry next to 63 Robin Hood Road (In May this path traversed a wonderful bank of bluebells) The railings probably denote the boundary of the former Quarry Bank secondary school for girls.

Sadly, for whatever reason this path is now so overgrown that it has not been used for years so it was necessary to take a detour but we did still see the distinctive 1930s style of the houses built by the old Quarry Bank Urban District Council and the green that used to be the starting point for the Quarry Bank Carnivals of years gone by.

Saltwells Lane

We reach Coppice Lane again via Saltwells Lane. Saltwells Lane may have been the track bed of a branch of the Earl of Dudley's railway system built to serve Saltwells No 33 Colliery which was so close to the centre of Quarry Bank. I now realise that this walk is a circular walk with No 33 Colliery at its centre though there is no trace of it today.

Birch Coppice

Having crossed Coppice Lane and turned right up the hill we gather together outside Birch Coppice Methodist Chapel. The Number.55 is a typical nineteenth century "squatters "cottage and plot- now providing a contrast with its neighbour Number 53 built in the1960s chalet style. Infilling like this over the decades has changed the face of Birch Coppice. What a treat it was for us to find no. 55 is still there exactly as it was described 23 years earlier and so was Woodbine Cottage built in 1895 but it looks like Number .22 with the tie bars and the Anderson Shelter may have been replaced for, we could only glimpse it between the three bungalows built in its garden.

Birch Coppice pub carpark

This has been the assembly point for more recent carnivals in Quarry Bank. The Birch Coppice and its carpark no longer exist replaced by sheltered accommodation bungalows. We continue along Woodland Avenue noting the royal names that suggest its 1950s origins until we reach Number.82 marking the end of its 1950s origins and next door at Number 80 belonging to the 1930s development of Woodland Avenue. At the end of Woodland Avenue, we turn right and begin the climb up the hill. I have taken a short cut from the 2001 walk because there is a new feature that was not there 23 years ago and it is best viewed in daylight.

LHS: The site of The Three Horse Shoes and Crocko's store

RHS: The Site of The Coronet Cinema.

Using Ned's book on Black Country Cinemas I was able to inform everyone that the first film when it opened in 1933 was The Cuban Love Song and the last film when it closed on20th Feb.1960was The Mouse That Roared. Starring Peter Sellers.

LHS: Ivy Cottages 1903.

RHS: Rose Hill — leading to some of the oldest surviving houses of Quarry Bank and to the Earl of Dudley's pit (33) that was once so close to the centre of Quarry Bank.

 Now unrecognisable with so many houses but once again it could be described as a settlement within Quarry Bank.

LHS: Note the lean on Jubilee House 1897 and the removal of its neighbours (This is an area much affected by subsidence)

 Now no longer there.

RHS: QB Bikes was once The Elephant and Castle.

 LHS: Wine Cabinet was once "Yates."

LHS: The Labour Club.

Now Quarry Bank Social Club.

On the Club Car Park to look at the Infants School Building which has just had its bell tower removed. This typical School Board building which has played such an important part in QB's history now seems threatened has lost many of its key historical buildings and no one in the local authority seems interested in saving this one.

Sure, enough it went and was replaced by a brand-new school.

Many the times I have travelled up and down The High Street and walking I have tended to travel on the left-hand side but on my recce walk I stayed on the right-hand side and it was a good job I did otherwise I would have missed the art work that made up the school fence. Absolutely fabulous in my opinion. Executed by Tim Tolken and designed by the school children themselves. illustrating the story of Quarry Bank and school life and local industry past and present and a wavy band with Black Country Dialect written on it. There is a coal mine to remind passers by how close they are to Pit 33.

Nearby is the Liberal Club-extremely important in QB's history as this is the location which was the centre of the "Night the Bomb Dropped" story-giving rise to QB's claim to being "The Holy City".

For any reader who does not know the story a German Land Mine crashed through the roof and failed to explode leaving a hole in the roof. This too has been cleverly incorporated in the school fence opposite.

RHS: Note the elegant school" lodge.". The original junior School building behind this had been replaced in the 1930s with a new Primary School serving this end of Quarry bank.

RHS: The Community Centre of 1960s vintage and the Sheffield Street area once the centre of QBs chain-making community.

RHS: Jewess Butcher-once Grove's- In front of which stood a tree seen in old pictures marking the border between "lower" and "upper "Quarry Bank.

LHS: The New Inn- we would like everybody to come for a drink in The New Inn- either stop off now, or continue to the car park at the top of the High Street if you've got to dash of

We couldn’t do that in 2024 because the pub has been closed for some time now. Was it really 23 years ago that we did and Dave Cooper the landlord made us very welcome? Thanks John, and Ned.

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