The Clock Tower

Stories of Wednesbury

Artist Serena Patel wanted to create a piece of art that reflects the various stories and voices of Wednesbury’s many different communities, as well as include the Clock Tower that is such a prominent feature of the town. The stories collated are of Wednesbury’s past and the present and the mosaic represents the different communities coming together.  These stories are from Serena’s friends and family, who wished to remain anonymous, as well as: Pravin J, Kathleen Homes, Margaret Wood and Trevor Eades.

There’s a little pizza shop located in Wednesbury called Amigos. My family and I like to spend our Friday evening indulging in the scrumptious and delicious pizza. They consist of a thin layer of bread dough topped with spiced tomato sauce and cheese, often garnished with olives, tandoori chilli chicken slices, mushrooms and sweet corn.

When I was younger, the town hall was very popular for weddings. I remember when I was about 5 years old, I must have got bored so walked out of the hall on my own and hopped on the bus that was outside. My parents were frantic searching for me! The town hall also hosted the best Navratri festival.

Wednesbury was my home for a couple of years. It is small but not too small. The community is small but very close. My commute to work took me through the town, with the local shops: butchers, the bingo hall and the newer, large bingo hall. Despite being smalll, Wednesbury has two tram stops that link you to the rest of the Midlands so everywhere seems close enough to visit. The churches are a stand-out feature, with character, just like the local library. The large chain pub has some of the cheapest beer around. Wednesbury has a lot of history but it’s a shame it is now mainly known for Swedish flat pack furniture! (IKEA)

I have lots of memories of Wednesbury town and the surrounding area. Patent Shaft Steelworks which was demolished and Shafts Nightclub on Dudley Street. Topkapi, the kebab shop on Union Street which was always the last stop after a night out. The George on the corner of Market Street and Union Street with its pool tables that always served a cool bottle of Pils to pass the lunch hour away. Tandy, the electrical wholesaler on Bilston Road; Tandy was Wednesbury! Woolworths on Market Street always had what any customer went in for. Kendrick College, the old Victorian building which stood at the top end of town where Walsall Street began. There was a part of the college at the other end of Walsall Street when it changes to Wood Green Road.

Pre-pandemic, on a Monday, me and my cousins would go to Weatherspoon’s in Wednesbury with my grandad. We would have a pint of Guinness ‘cos, as my grandad would say, ‘it’s a cheap pint’. We would sit around the table and talk to him about the sports on TV and what it was like coming from India to the UK as a young lad.

When we were younger, we used to do swimming lessons at the Wednesbury leisure centre after finishing my class. My mom used to venture into Wednesbury town to grab a hot sausage roll from Greggs.

I’ve lived in Wednesbury for 63 years, moving in to Bilston Road having married Albert Holmes. We had everything you could wish. I have memories of Middlebrooks’s shop, the Cross Guns pub, the fruit and veg shop at the top of Bilston Road and the Cottage Spring. Football was played every week on the field off Bilston Road which was named Norman Deeley field after the Wolves player.  There were shops all along Trouse Lane leading to the town. The open-air market was under the clock. We had Woolworths, Peacocks, the haberdashers, Desbes and so many different kinds of shops; you could buy everything you needed in town. 

We had a busy little town where you could meet up with people every day and never get bored or lonely. The dance school founded by John and Joan Knight is still there and was special to me. My son, Paul, joined when he was 9 years old and his dancing led him all over the world. But, wherever he went, he always mentioned his pride in his home town and talked about our church on the hill which was his landmark for home. Times have changed. Shopping outlets and job losses have meant there are fewer people around. Some of us older ones can’t do as much as we’d like but I’ve never wanted to leave. I’ve been involved in the tenants’ association for the last 23 years and as a Town Hall volunteer. This has been a way of still meeting people. I’ve seen many changes but I’m still proud of our town and the people who live here.

Kathleen Homes – permission from her niece, Margaret Wood

When I was nine years old, my mum used to send me to Mr Roberts newsagents on Monday morning at 8 am to get some change for our school tuck money. It was just by the clock tower. I was allowed to buy a comic called the Bunty.

One Monday morning, as I was walking towards the shop, I found a £5 note; in those days that would have been someone’s wages and like a £100 today. I went back to the shop and told Mr Roberts. No-one had been in and asked if someone found it so he told me to take it to the police station. After three months, no-one had claimed it so the police came knocking on the door to give me the £5 note. I used to go to school with Mr Roberts’ daughter, Elaine Copson, her name now that she is married.

My favourite memory of the town would be going to the pictures on a Saturday morning as there was a special Saturday morning kids’ club for three hours. The parents were always happy to get rid of us for a few hours of peace and quiet.

My big sister used to work there so we’d get in for half-price. We’d be allowed to walk on our own up to the sweet shop, Teddy Grays, get some sweets, then walk to the Odeon cinema, queue up till it was quiet and then sis would let us in. Going into the Odeon was the biggest space we would go into, apart from the Mandir (and school of course) so it was quite exciting for an 8 year old kid.

Pravin J

My memories of Wednesbury range from visiting the bank to going to the vegetable shop to pick up fresh vegetables which were then used to make delicious meals. My most fond memory would have to be when I took part in the Christmas light switch-on. I used to play a brass instrument when I was at school so, every year, me and other members of the local brass band would play Christmas songs on the lead up to the lights being switched on. It would always get me into the festive spirit ☺

Wednesbury town is a pleasure to shop in. Not many shops but plenty of variety for all the various families that live in Wednesbury.

I love all the local shops where you can buy fruit and veg; all the butchers; and the various Asian shops to get curry essentials, with added advice, to make authentic meals.

There are lots of charity shops to get your 1000 piece jigsaw to keep your mind active, during the pandemic. Fast food shops for the younger residents to catch up with their mates and restaurants/pubs for Friday nights out.

Most of all I love the shopkeepers who are always friendly and have time to talk to their regular customers.

I will always remember, in 1973, Fred Ward the Managing Director of S.Webb raised £3,000, which is about £17,000 in today’s money, for the Plant a Tree for Wednesbury campaign. With the money collected, Church Hill was transformed into a green place of solitude with trees and benches which still looks so beautiful today, all those years later.

Remember once we had a Woolworths, a Subway, a Boots?Well they’re not here anymore but we do have a Morrisons. We’d bustle through crowds on a Friday. We had the little knitting shop at the end of the high street, the chip tub, now expanded, dripping in salt and vinegar. The fruit shops, they’re my favourite, a little chit chat with the cashier about the weekend, and whether the president plums are in season. Wednesbury isn’t a place they show the tourists, but it’s home, where I feel the presence of my mom’s hugs, family parties, neighbours’ fireworks and all those childhood memories of being given £2 on a weekend to go to town with your friends. Home isn’t a place, it’s a feeling, but Wednesbury isn’t far off.

With my family I’ve lived in Wednesbury for nearly 14 years. My daily morning commute involves walking through Wednesbury town centre to Great Western tram stop. It takes me past the post office, the Choice Taxi Rank and Morrisons.  There are not many people around in the morning, just the odd few walking to work. In winter it tends to be cold and dark, but the summer months are bright and warmer. The return journey from Birmingham tends to get in at Great Western tram stop for about 5.30 pm and I pop into Morrisons for a quick shop before I head for home.

When I first qualified as a fitness instructor I decided to become self-employed and start my own classes. I remember walking through Wednesbury, handing out flyers and talking to local people and businesses and it really gave me a huge confidence boost as a lot of people showed interest. I will always remember how that time helped kick start my career.

When I was a child we didn’t have a bath so, on Friday, my mum use to take me and my sibling to Wednesbury swimming baths where they had cubicles for us to take a bath.

Once you had paid, the attendant came to turn a special tap to fill the bath with hot water but we were only allowed so much. Mum used to add the cold water. My mum use to put me and my brother in the bath together. Sometimes mum was able to open the hot water tap by using a flannel.

I used to love Fridays. We would have fish and chips and an uncle we shared the house with used to buy us a bottle of coke and a packet of crisps where the salt packet used to be inside; you had to open the salt and shake it into the packet. We used to have chocolate too; I used to have a bar called Aztec.

I was born in the house where my aunt, Kathleen Holmes, still lives. Hearing her stories brought back memories of my childhood. My nan, Phoebe Holmes, used to work at The Woodman in Dale Street. Sometimes I used to go with her to polish the tables before the pub opened. A combination of polish and beer smells takes me back to being a little girl eating puff candy as a reward for doing my bit to help.

Mom was the cook in the canteen at Woolworths and seemed to know everyone in the town. It took forever to get anywhere because people wanted to stop and chat.

When I got married, I briefly moved out of Wednesbury but still met mom to shop in town on Saturday mornings. One Saturday, we’d parted company as usual and when I got home, I had a call off mom. After we left, she’d seen a streaker running around The Clock. I asked her if she knew who he was. ‘No, but I can tell you he was a redhead!’

Like everyone I’ve had some sadness but there’s also been a lot of laughter. I like to think the Wednesbury sense of humour continues in my children and grandchildren, wherever life takes them.

Margaret Wood

One of my favourite memories of Wednesbury town that I remember was going to Union Shopping Centre and the indoor market; people used to come especially for the fresh fish. Wednesbury markets were very well known.

For some it is bare,

But I think I’d like to share.

That even in snow,

The markets still seem to grow.

You may find it unimportant,

That the windmill is still dormant.

The population is barely plenty,

And the bus stops almost empty.

But there is still some unity,

Among the many forms of community.

Under the dark grey clouds above,

You might even spot a dove.

I’m afraid there’s not much to see,

In my small town, Wednesbury.

Whenever I used to study at my friend’s house, I’d always fancy the chips and curry sauce from the chippy in Wednesbury town, so we used to walk there at lunch when we were in 6th Form just to get some because I was craving them.

Having being born and bred in good ode Wednesbury. I often reminisce about how lovely little ode Wednesbury used to be as I grew up. I used to love walking up the town, arm in arm with my mom as a child. I can recall all the lovely shops. Woolworths was always a favourite. Browsing around the market that surrounded The Clock. I can picture all the stalls to this day. Having such wonderful memories of Wednesbury town and the folks that spent hours wandering from the Maypole to George Mason’s and onto the Household Stores and many other characteristic shops, inspired me with my art. That, and a lady who lives in Adelaide, Australia. This lady often came ‘home’ to Wednesbury to visit family and friends. I got chatting to her once about how our childhood was filled with great memories. Playing in Brunswick Park, visiting the Gaumont on a Saturday morning, swimming at Wednesbury baths, etc. All these thoughts and conversations inspired me to get out my paints and brushes again. Hence my calendars – Wednesbury Back in the Day – evolved. This is the fourth year I have managed to research old photographs of Wednesbury and bring them to life in a calendar. The best part of this ‘inspiration’ is the lovely comments and memories that my artwork has recaptured in folks who also appreciate Wednesbury Back in the Day.

On a Saturday morning, my big sister use to take me and my cousin, who we lived with, to the cinema in the morning.

Our treat was going to a sweet shop called Teddy Grays which is still open in Wednesbury today. I used to love nougat and very if often mum use to buy white milk little chocolate like buttons with hundreds and thousands on. After we grew up and had children my mum use to buy them for our children.

At the cinema they use to have a dance competition before the Saturday film started. One year, as a 9 year old, I came first and got a free pass for the following week.

We played and stayed out on summer nights; I used to play down the black brick on Friar Park. The black brick is by Crankhall Lane, back of Collins Road in Wednesbury. Just before Wednesbury Park, my brother tried to jump across the brock and fell in, and it was hilarious.

Me and my brother used to like the great outdoors, scrumping apples climbing trees, cars and motorbikes, living life and learning from our mistakes, ducking and diving from the school board man.

Trevor Eades

Clocktower Blues

by Brendan Hawthorne

 I’ve got the clock tower blues
 I don’t know what time it is today                       repeat
 When asked for time I don’t know what to say
 I’ve got the clock tower blues
 the face of says it’s twenty past 
 It was well past on the hour when I looked at it last
 I’ve got the clock tower blues
 I’m  either early or just too late
 Whichever it is someone’s gonna have to wait
 I’ve got the clock tower blues
 The pigeons coo right on the hour
 From the nests that they built in that red brick tower
 I’ve got the clock tower blues
 I got the clock tower blues
 Got the clock tower blues
 Clock tower blues
 Whatever time it is
 I don’t know what to say