7 August 2017

An Aldridge Perambulation

Although I walk around Aldridge on one mission or another every day, it is not often I choose to walk Aldridge purely as a leisure pursuit. Sunday unusually, was dry and reasonably sunny for some of the time and so I decided to amble where ever my feet and thoughts decided to go. When walking Aldridge for no other reason than I want to, my thoughts tend to lead to those who have walked before me, Grandparents, Great Grandparents and even Great Great Grandparents. My mind tries to picture the streets, roads and lanes as they were 100 years ago and even further back than that. On a reasonably quiet Sunday morning with the bells of the parish church ringing, it is not a difficult leap to make although I do think that most of my ancestors would be astounded by the changes that have taken place, not just in the buildings around the village or even the growth of housing but in the lack of industry compared with back then. No collieries now. No belching chimneys or even gently smoking chimneys from the homes. No blacksmiths forges. If one thing has improved in Aldridge whilst I have been alive, its the air quality!

This is the walk I took, taking photographs of anything that interested me along the way.


This terrace on Walsall Road is most attractive now. The tiny front gardens are immaculately maintained. Having checked the old OS maps they appear to have been built sometimes between 1901 and 1913. As a child I thought of them as unattractive and forbidding with their peeling green paint on windows and doors!
 Forgive this photograph of a roof but it is all you can see from Walsall Road. This small cottage on that road is older than the terrace above having been built between 1882 and 1901. It is the cottage I wrote about in a blog about my Grandfather who died there. It is also the house in which my father and his sister were born.

 Next to the cottage is the mile post marker. This must have been erected around the time the cottage was built as it appears for the first time on an OS map for which the survey was carried out in 1901. The post was manufactured by Charles Lathe & Co of Tipton who were established c.1887 and their mile markers can still be found all over Staffordshire. For many years the marker's reference to Watford Gap puzzled me as the only Watford Gap I had ever heard of was on the M1 and that is a great deal further than four miles! A request to the wonderful Brownhills Bob and his inestimable readership soon solved the mystery!
 Originally the site of White House Farm and now The Whitehouse pub,which was built in 1937. I was amused when attempting to trace any history of this pub that one web site states its location as Pool Green, Walsall, which is a nod to its true location (Pool Green was in effect a hamlet outside of Aldridge village until Aldridge started to grow outwards but controversially, may be the place that Aldridge was first settled and so is more Aldridge than Aldridge!) and one in the eye for rather a lot of people who have commented on the pub being in Aldridge and not Walsall on a particular Facebook group! It may be in Aldridge now but it may not have always been considered to be so.



After the fire - last week fire swept through this farm on Bosty Lane. I'm not sure how old some of these buildings are. They are not listed but they are old. They appear on OS Maps prior to 1881. The farm I am led to understand, is owned by Walsall Council and is currently unoccupied.
 Top Hangar at the Airport field. No longer occupied by the Countryside Services team from Walsall Council, who still own the building and judging by the gates, seldom entered and not for some considerable time. I find this a pity. It is a building that has enormous potential for community use but alas we live in what seems like perpetual austerity and so it is abandoned despite its history.


The Top Hangars history is partly explained by a poster on the door, left over from the Black Country Echoes Festival held during the latter part of 2014. Helliwells, producer of the Swallow Doretti is part of that history as was the war time manufacture of aircraft components by the same company, along with aircraft modification and repair at their factory which once stood on the other side of the airport field, fronting the Walsall Road.
 The Airport Field, now known as Aldridge Airport Field but originally called Walsall Aerodrome was purchased along with Aldridge Lodge (now demolished) in 1930 by Walsall Council. It closed in 1956. My Dad told me of the day he had seen Amy Johnson land on the field and I doubted him until I discovered that yes, she did actually land there back in 1938. Dad would have been 6 years old. Today was clear and there in the distance is Dudley and Rowley Regis.


Further along towards the west, the flats of the Chuckery in Walsall dominate hiding the more genteel view of St Matthew's in Walsall. At the bottom of the field the local model airplane club still brings in the numbers on a Sunday morning.
You can see the flats in Heath Town Wolverhampton in this shot if you get a magnifying glass out. As I sat on a post pondering the panorama of virtually the whole of the Black Country before me and certainly the Boroughs that make up the Black Country as it is considered today; Walsall, Sandwell, Dudley and Wolverhampton. it occurred to me that had I sat here 150 years ago I would have been able to witness the Black by Day, Red by Night, description famously made by Elihu Burritt the American Consul. Black Smoke during the day and the red from the forges and furnaces at night for the industrial revolution was a 24/7 enterpise, in all its glory. We are so lucky in Aldridge to have fantastic views in all directions, perched as we are on a ridge. Not so lucky if you cycle though as I have discovered, as all roads home are up hill!

This house on Barr Common Road appears on the 1885 OS map which was surveyed for in 1882. It seems from appearance to have been around for some considerable time prior to that date. It's a lovely old farm house and is listed on a local list (as opposed to The Statutory List of Special Architectural or Historic Interest).
 The start of Barr Common. The spot I stood to take this photograph was once part of  a gravel pit. The gravel was used for road repairs following the  expansion of roads after the various turnpike acts in parliament during the 18th and 19th centuries. Hard to believe it now isn't it?


Taken from Whetstone Lane. You can see the Sutton Coldfield transmitter and Sutton Park. As I said earlier, Aldridge is blessed with good views from many vantage points.

This nearly derelict house on Erdington Road, more or less opposite the junction with Whetstone Lane is causing a little controversy at the present time. The last house on that side until nearly at the junction with Little Hardwick Road it has a large garden, is right on the edge of the green belt and offers most pleasant views over fields towards Sutton Park.



The Shrubbery on Erdington Road. Grade II listed having being built in the mid to late 18th century. Used as offices now but apparently has some interesting period detail within.

 Just before the junction of Erdington Road with Portland Road are these buildings. I have no idea how old they are, probably no more than a century however, the brickwork speaks of days gone by as does the size of the windows. Per OS maps they were built prior to 1912.

Portland Road. At least 100 years old.

Peeping through the gate to get a glimpse of The Cottage built in the 17th century. It has sat there on the edge of The Croft for so long, I think many people forget it is there. Despite it now being such a busy road, I always think The Cottage remains in glorious isolation and seclusion. It looks so inviting. I would love a tour!
A famous Aldridge landmark. Now The Maltings but I do remember it as Frank James Hill Garage. It stands right next to The Moot House.  People often think that the hill was named after the garage and that Frank James owned the garage but the hill came first. Locally known as Frank James Hill but who was Frank James and how did he get a hill named after him?  That's a blog for another day but I do know the answer! One only has to look as far as Walsall and a foundry that used to stand in Bridgeman Street!

The Croft. Our village green. How long will this remain unspoiled despite it being protected by common land status and also being in a conservation area?




The war memorial or cenotaph as some call it. Originally erected in the church yard just a few yards away and re-sited in the 1950s. My Great Uncle, William Plant is remembered on this. My Great Grandmother, his mother,  kept a photograph of its original dedication in 1919 with her until she died.


The lychgate at the parish church.

The Bonner Memorial looking beautiful after all the loving attention of the Aldridge Volunteer Gardeners. We owe them so much for keeping Aldridge looking lovely. Thank you



OK so I took this photograph but I do like it! The Bonner Memorial Garden and The Parish Church all in one shot...and no cars!



The main entrance to the cemetery. Beautiful doors and well maintained.


The new Church Rooms. I have to admit that I didn't much care for this building originally but it has grown on me. I love the reflections of colours in and off the main window

Taken from the side of the new Church Rooms looking towards the new development that was built on the site of the 1970s rectory. The land on which the rectory stood was sold for the proceeds to be used towards the cost of the new Church Rooms. I don't think the houses of the new development will ever grow on me. Considering how much they cost when built, the look to me, like cheap impersonations of old farm houses but without the purpose......




.....and from the back they look like a row of terraced houses. They certainly packed them in!

Finally, the Old Rectory. Built in the 1820s and now accommodation for the elderly. A lovely spot right next to the church.






I ambled back towards The Croft to return home reflecting upon the fact that Aldridge is still not a bad place to live. My ancestors, two branches of my family came here for different reasons. My father's paternal side came here for work at the mines. His maternal side, two different generations, well one came to retire but did anything but and the other generation came to work on the farms. I left for nearly 20 years but returned because my parents were still here and I had young children that needed decent schools.

I hope you've enjoyed perambulating with me.

21 July 2017

Power to the People?

I have been thinking recently about democracy and accountability.  Not in any great philosophical way but about how it works in my life, where I live, what local issues concern me and whether I or any other ordinary people actually have any say in what happens. Coupled with these thoughts have been others on freedom of speech, particularly with regard to blogging. Do I have any right to inflict my own opinions on others? Do I feel a responsibility towards those who ask me to speak in their behalf?

Freedom of speech is a phrase banded around usually by those who don't have any idea that freedom of speech does come with a responsibility of which, I am acutely aware; that of saying what you want to say but without insult and injury to those who you speak to and of  not breaking any laws designed to protect certain groups of people and individuals. It's a difficult line to follow sometimes. I never actively go out to insult someone but occasionally what I have written is taken that way. As a person who tends to call a digging implement a spade, I can be taken aback when it is deemed that I have caused offence but if I have, I  always apologise and hopefully things move on from there.

Now and then something is said that is possibly a little too close to the truth for some people to deal with and that is when the accusations of insult come out to play. I don't believe in going around in circles to explain my discomfort with someone or something. I just say it, in a polite manner and without breaking any laws!

In recent times I have blogged about local issues and the accountability of those that have been elected and those who have not! I have been concerned that local democracy has been subverted by unelected, unaccountable individuals, groups and organisations. In searching for a definition of the word democracy I find that every publication has its own take on the word. No surprise really in the age of spin. I find one of the Harper Collins definitions (yes, even dictionary publishers have more than one definition available!) 'a political or social unit governed ultimately by all its members' as an understandable definition but how does that definition fit in with the definition of 'accountability'? Both words are interleaved and locked, for surely you cannot have democracy without accountability and if it is the unelected that make the decisions and runs the show, then accountability is none existent.

Accountability has in recent years become a rather negative word in that is it's generally used in a negative context. In our blame culture someone always has to be accountable when the proverbial poop hits the fan. Yet the definition of the word talks of accountability being 'the quality or  state of being accountable; an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility for one's actions'. Politicians for the most part, take their obligation to mean that accountability will be taken care of at the ballot box and if they haven't done well they will not be re-elected! Unfortunately  in the words of Larry J Sabato, "Every election is determined by the people who show up"! In a democratic society lots of people exercise their right not to vote because they fail to see how their one vote will change anything, make their life any better or worse. They fail to see and understand that politics pervades every part of life, from waste disposal to pot holes to schooling, to social services and care for the elderly, the disabled and the young, to policing, to health services, to transport, to parks. You get the picture. Life is political and therefore to participate in an election is to hold to account those who stand for office.

But what about those who take on responsibilities for whatever reason and yet can never be held accountable? There are small groups of people, even individuals who are not elected, not accountable to anyone but themselves and who make decisions on behalf of local communities that can change the face of an area. I have seen this happen in Aldridge and I have blogged about it. The reason behind the blogging of such episodes is to inform people what is being done in their name and with their money and of decisions made behind closed doors. Sometimes I am approached to give a voice to an issue that someone cares about and for whatever reason feels unable to do so themselves. I'm happy to help and yes, I do feel a responsibility to those people even if I disagree with them!

I have blogged about Aldridge, Walsall and what I care about for years. They are my own thoughts or ramblings of a mad old baggage. I don't need permission from anyone to write about what is on my mind or to report upon local events because I don't claim to speak on behalf of the whole community nor represent them. I hopefully stick to the law, don't insult and help keep people informed. I do this because I care about where I live and what happens. I care about those who are disenfranchised in some way and do not have a voice. Recent local events have been tragic and truly awful. A call was made by someone, a local resident whom I have know for years, for a public meeting and another person who had contacts very kindly liaised with others to bring together that meeting. However, unless you are a member of a certain group on Facebook there is no input for you. So those who don't do the internet, those who don't do Facebook and those who are not members of one particular group are disenfranchised because I have seen no other form of communication about this apart from leaflets advertising the meeting.

This concerns me.

At the meeting the Chair said that people would make reports and get back to 'you'. Who is 'you'? Now apparently there will be another meeting at some point so at least those who attend that meeting will learn a little of what is happening but what about everyone else? And who should be disseminating information, passing it on and deciding what can and cannot be said or asked? Should it be an unelected and unaccountable individual or should it be one of our local councillors perhaps? Or possibly a council officer who can use the resources available to ensure that there is more than one platform for people to report to and learn from?

My ramblings on what goes around in my head at 4am. Welcome to my world! I'm not sure if I've reached any conclusions here or even made any sense but I feel better for writing about what is troubling me. If what I have written troubles you in some way then possibly you need to think about your attitude towards local democracy and accountability.

I welcome discussion and debate especially about how we should now deal with the consequences of the recent meeting. All comments are published whether I like them or not apart from any that are deeply nasty or insulting. If you resort to that, I have no time for your comments.

I would also like to take the opportunity to thank the many dozens of people who have contacted me in various forms to thank me for raising issues and also to thank my fellow local bloggers who as always, have been most supportive, even if they can't stand me and disagree with everything I say!

15 July 2017

Public Meeting Held Aldridge Community Centre 14th July 2017

This isn't one of my usual blogs. It is a summary of the meeting that was held last night at Aldridge Community Centre, called for by the residents of Aldridge in response to an unusual number of high profile crimes committed in Aldridge in recent months and in particular the tragic murder of James Brindley.

Firstly, I would like to offer my sincere condolences to James' parents, sister, wider family and his friends. To lose a child is for me, unimaginable, to lose a child in this manner is beyond tragic. Your statements and public appearances demonstrate a dignity and courage that is admirable, your faces betrayed the terrible pain you suffer. You are in my thoughts every day.

This summary is in no way intended to reflect everything that was said at the meeting. It is not intended to be a verbatim report or a  set of minutes. It's merely a personal summing up  made from my notes and from my impressions.

Apparently a full recording has been made and will be available soon, as will a set of minutes. I'm not sure where they will be published. We all witness things in different ways and you, if you were present, may have heard or taken on board things that were said, completely differently to me.

A big thank you to those who facilitated the organisation of the meeting, including Jean Ash, Russell Smith, John Morris and Erika Stanton-Bullock.

Top Table: Wendy Morton MP - Chair, Inspector Sophie Worthington WMP, Superintendent Sue Parker WMP (in charge of policing in Walsall), Sgt. Mari Amos WMP (Aldridge), Lynette Kelly Assistant Police and Crime Commissioner West Midlands, Cllr Lee Jeavons Walsall Council, Cllr Tim Wilson Aldridge Central, Cllr John Murray Aldridge Central, Rev John Coyne Rector of Aldridge, Erika Stanton-Bullock

To assist everyone here is a LINK providing details of the local policing team and another LINK detailing the area they cover. This is a LINK for details of your local councillors.

Also in the audience were Cllr John Rochelle Aldridge Central, all three councillors for Aldridge North and Walsall Wood Messrs Clarke, Harris and Sears plus I also spotted Cllr Richard Worrall from Rushall and Cllr Steve Wade from Brownhills.

I'm not sure of exact figures in attendance but seating was for 200. This was all taken and there was an overflow of people into the side room and the foyer so possibly 300 to 350. I stand to be corrected if anyone has the actual figures.

There was an agenda and also a list of pre submitted questions. Alas neither were really followed and not all the questions were addressed, as the meeting ran out of time.

Following opening comments and thanks from Wendy Morton, Rev Coyne read out a short message from the family of James Brindley and a minutes silence was held.

Supt Parker gave an update on the murder investigation, thanked the community for the support that the Police had received and reflected on social media commentary that day, which in her opinion had been unhelpful. She pointed out that they were still in the early stages of a complex investigation and that comments could have an impact upon that investigation. Comments should be respectful to James' family and should not jeopardise the investigation.

The first question concerned what action was being taken to protect the community. Supt Parker recognised that detailing the low crime statistics doesn't always give reassurance and recognised that in a short space of time there had been a spike in significant crimes that was unusual for Aldridge. Investigations were ongoing in all those crimes. She spoke about the local neighbourhood team and that they would not be seen every day and on every shift. They are dedicated to the local area and aim to build up partnerships with local community groups, neighbourhood watch, the council and councillors and engage with the community. She acknowledged the high levels of support that the Police received from the residents of Aldridge. Backing up the neighbourhood team are response teams and other support. She pointed out that resources had to be prioritised to high areas of demand such as Walsall Town Centre.

The local neighbourhood team consists of one Sergeant, four PCs and 6 PCSOs. The team is on until midnight and is based in Aldridge. Cover in the evenings is based upon need. Recently there have been other resources brought into Aldridge in the form of reassurance patrols plus other support.  Supt Parker said the policing was effective and smart. It was confirmed that although patrols are made outside of the immediate area of Aldridge centre, they were not made frequently and were directed to areas where problems had been reported.

Cllr Wilson agreed that the local councillors do work closely with the Police but said there needed to be an increase in numbers. Cllr Murray commented that perhaps people did not appreciate all of the jobs that the Police have to do.

The second question concerned  CCTV for Aldridge, funding for that and for increased lighting in certain areas such as the Croft.

Cllr Jeavons spoke on behalf of the council and said he was pleased to see such a good attendance and saw that the community was united. He described  the CCTV for the whole of the Borough as archaic. There are currently 90 fixed CCTV and 20 mobile CCTV units for the whole Borough. The Council are investing £450K in a new system. The council would not be adding to any CCTV in their control in the area unless the 'spike' in crime became a 'trend', then there might be change. He added that Aldridge was still a great place to live.

Cllr Jeavons explained that street lighting was for the illumination of the highways and not for security purposes so there would be no additional lighting provided however, the Council is now investing in new LED lighting, which is a white light and gives greater clarity and shows events up better on CCTV. He did not know how many CCTV cameras there were in Aldridge but would find out and pass the information on.

Several questions were asked by members of the audience regarding specific problem areas such as Middlemore Lane where drug dealing often takes place along with car crime etc and also regarding anti-social behaviour including one particular heartfelt plea from a resident who is at his wits end and with regard to the latter asked how he could get help because the social landlord was not helping at all. Mention was also made of the sign in Middlemore Lane advising that there was CCTV. Residents had  only discovered that there was no camera, just a sign when crimes had been committed and had not been recorded.

The Police reiterated their close working relationships with partners including social landlords and licencees. They also explained that they were now responsible for dealing with and recording crime that was previously 'hidden' such as domestic violence and child trafficking. With regards to anti social behaviour, if a police partner (any partner, social landlord, council etc) was not providing the assistance it was thought was needed, then a person can use the 'Community Trigger Process'.

The Assistant PCC Lynette Kelly, explained a little of how the office of PCC works. The PCC sets policies for the Police but these are carried out by the Chief Constable. They are there to support neighbourhoods. They do not have a budget for CCTV as if money was used in that way it would have to come straight out of front line policing budgets. The PCC does have  a small budget for special projects. Lynette acknowledged that in the last few weeks there had been problems with the 101 number.

There were then a number of comments and questions from the audience covering speeding vehicles, noise from vehicles, more on the problems around the community centre in the form of racing cars and drug dealing and taking. There was also a question about how we move forward.

The Police advice was to log car registration numbers and to make reports on 101. Letters would be sent to registered owners. The public are the Police's eyes and ears and there was encouragement to the public to sign up for WM Now and to monitor Police twitter and facebook accounts. People were encouraged to report by social media too HOWEVER a note from me here...do not report crime on twitter. Every Police twitter account I have ever seen states categorically that crime must not be reported on twitter! The public can still make face to face contact with local officers through pop up events. The Police recognise the 'spike' in crime levels in Aldridge, they are grateful for the public support and want to move forward by building on neighbourhood policing and their partnerships.

One audience member asked for clarification of what number should be called, 999 or 101. This followed a particularly disturbing incident that she had witnessed outside a funeral directors when an elderly man was surrounded by 20 young men who had been behaving in an anti social manner. It took 101 50 minutes to respond. Questions were raised about crime prevention.

The police acknowledged that the response for the incident mentioned was not acceptable. They asked that 999 not be used unnecessarily as there was a risk to people if it was misused. They also acknowledged that there were challenges with 101 at present due to a high demand, not just locally but nationally.  The volume of calls in the last three weeks has been equivalent to New Years Eve (traditionally the busiest day of the year) every single day. There has been an unprecedented level of demand. 101 was the number to be used for non-emergencies although there is a risk assessment with every call as to whether the situation required an immediate response or not.

In summary of the meeting as a whole, what was clear from the audience was the they were frustrated by reactive policing and wanted proactive policing instead. Crime prevention was given scant regard. From the top table the message was that it is not an option for the number of police officers in Aldridge to be increased. Aldridge still has the lowest crime rate in the area and other areas need the resources. It is clear that more liaison with licensees regarding crime and CCTV and the need for good security is needed. It was acknowledged from the audience and the top table that there has been 'something' serious going wrong in society as a whole and not just Aldridge.

There was insufficient time to cover questions about drug taking, the local (closed to the public) police station, provision for young people, crime prevention and steps that could be taken by individuals for personal safety.

The Chair gave each of the top table an opportunity to make some final remarks.

Rev, Coyne acknowledged the deep sense of frustration apparent at the meeting. He suggested that the needs of the community needed to be recorded and he was happy to open the churches in Aldridge for individual experiences to be captured. Cllr Murray also acknowledged the frustration too, reiterated that they would continue to work closely with the police and asked that everyone kept feeding information back to the local councillors and  get in touch with them either by phone, email or at their regular surgeries, so that they would be aware of community feeling. Cllr Wilson thanked everyone for attending, also acknowledged the sense of frustration and expressed the hope that things would change. Cllr Jeavons also thanked everyone, repeated that new LED lighting and CCTV was on the way and acknowledged the closeness and passion of the community. Supt. Parker touched on the difference between reality and perception with regards to robberies. She encouraged everyone to participate in their local neighbourhood watch, also mentioned the active citizen scheme and thanked everyone for their support. Sgt Amos appealed for everyone to sign up to their local neighbourhood watch. Lynette Kelly said that the PCC was aware of the problems around 101. Enough staff were needed to do the job and pressure was being put on the Chief Constable. She also pointed out that WMP are now actively recruiting officers despite the fact that their budget had been reduced by central government to the tune of £145 million since 2011. She said that they did the best they could with the money available.

There was some talk about agreed actions but my understanding at the meeting was that apart from Rev Coyne's suggestion there were no agreed actions actually made at the meeting. I believe they were agreed afterwards or perhaps I just missed what happened because it was fairly chaotic by that time, with lots of people talking over one another! I will update on what will/may happen next, when I know.

I asked about a dozen people after the meeting if they felt it had done any good. Every single person said that their frustrations remained and that they didn't think it had done any good. This is a pity because people had worked hard to bring this together. The other problem was the 'P' word; politics. There was an attempt to keep it out of the meeting but this failed, first on the top table by one of our local councillors, then another and then failure in the audience too. My personal view is that you cannot keep politics out of a meeting such as this. Reason? Policing requires a large budget. That budget, set by national government has been reduced enormously since 2011. No matter how close a community is, no matter how much they all work together to reduce problems, the real elephant in the room was that there are not enough police in situ to be able to deal with the problems in society we have or to fund CCTV etc. As soon as our  representatives, be it in local or national government, communicate this to their leaders, the sooner we may see progress.

Personally I too felt the frustration of the audience. I also felt and heard anger, passion and heartbreak. There were many interruptions, some heckling, some shouting. It was a normal public meeting. I sincerely hope that some good will come of it. We could make a good start by tackling the appalling lack of youth provision in Aldridge and in Walsall as a whole.

Please don't shoot the messenger!

EDIT: I am making this edit because apparently people are up in arms (so I am told although I am not sure of the veracity of the source) at me having the audacity to publish a personal summary of the meeting. I have made it clear at the beginning of this blog that this is a personal summary and that it is not a set of minutes. I'm sure any local media outlets that bother to read this blog will have taken that on board and will not confuse the blabbering of a mad old baggage with official accounts of the meeting, links to which will be published in due course. I am concerned that free speech may be an endangered species. I do so hope that it isn't as that will mean I am endangered too! Thank you for reading and please comment if you have any questions or require clarification of any points I make. I am always happy to engage in polite discussion !

FURTHER EDIT 17/07/17: Although official minutes are yet to be published, you can now listen to the whole meeting HERE. It's not the best recording in the world, there is a lot of fading in and out but if you're interested, stick with it. It's a great thing whoever did the recording and thank you (sorry I don't know your names). Please comment and we will acknowledge your contribution to the community.

20 June 2017

Permitting Sundials?

IMPORTANT SECOND EDIT 27 JUNE 2017 - THE PLANNING DEPARTMENT OF WALSALL COUNCIL HAVE CONFIRMED THAT SITE NOTICES FOR THE PLANNING PROPOSAL HAVE NOT YET BEEN ERECTED! 

PEOPLE WILL HAVE 21 DAYS FROM THE DATE THE SITE NOTICES ARE ERECTED TO SUBMIT COMMENTS/OBJECTIONS. UNFORTUNATELY AT THE PRESENT TIME THERE IS NO PLAN TO AMEND THE DATES ON THE PLANNING NOTICE ON THE WEB SITE DUE TO INTERNAL COMMUNICATION PROBLEMS (That's my interpretation of the issue) ALL A LITTLE BIT NAUGHTY UNDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES BY ALL PARTIES INVOLVED!




IMPORTANT EDIT 22 JUNE 2017: ALL COMMENTS/OBJECTIONS HAVE TO BE SUBMITTED BY  6 JULY 2017


I took a lot of personal abuse and grief for my blog SUNDIALS AND DEMOCRACY  (please click on the highlighted words to read the full story - thank you!) from those who don't much care for the democratic process. Fortunately it was later confirmed that planning permission would be required and could not be circumvented at a whim before £10,000 of publicly funded money could be spent on erecting a sundial on The Croft in Aldridge.

It is noted that planning permission has now been applied for.  You can see the full application HERE. The planning reference is 17/0704. Just pop the details in and you can then view all the papers although. You can also press the "Click Here to make a comment on this application" to make your views known or of you prefer, you can email or write to the planning department. Just make sure you quote the reference! You have until 13 July 2017 to make a comment.

I don't wish to preach but there's no point moaning about something after the event! If you have a view, a strong view, one way or another, then please let the planning department know. It is not a forgone conclusion that any application will be approved and not everything that is submitted within an application is necessarily the truth, only the truth as the applicant sees it.

You can also make representations to your local councillors. (Just click on the names below for details of how to contact them)
For Aldridge Central and South they are:
John Murray
John Rochelle
Timothy Wilson 

For Aldridge North and Walsall Wood they are:
Gary Clarke
Anthony Harris 
Keith Sears 

I am not making my own personal opinion on this planning application known here and now. That will follow.

20 May 2017

Adam Ainsworth - his four wives, curs and a horsewhipping

This isn't about Aldridge or even Walsall. It's family history and is not connected to the Midlands in anyway. If you're from up north though, you might be interested!

In loving memory and dedicated to Maria Gloria McHaffie nee Donohoe 1934-2017

I first made Maria’s acquaintance 6 years ago. She made quite an impact upon me as she did with everyone she met. Maria was a feisty, independent and an extremely intelligent woman, who worked hard and fought hard all of her life.

When we first talked about her family history one name leapt out from the past; Adam Ainsworth. Maria spoke vehemently. Adam was evil and  responsible for stealing the family fortune from the Jackson’s and had also driven his fourth wife to commit suicide at the docks in Barrow-in-Furness.

The story was intriguing and this blog is a record of my research so far BUT not all mysteries have been solved and not all family legends examined for the grain of truth that explains the foundations of the legend. This is so much more waiting to be discovered.

Maria was not a direct descendent of Adam. He was her two times Great Uncle on her maternal side.

I shall start at the beginning of what I know.

Adam and his sisters, Christiana (Christiana was Maria’s Great Grandmother) and Mary Ann were the children of Robert Ainsworth and Christian nee Brocklebank. Both Ainsworth and Brocklebank are old names prevalent in Lancashire, Cumberland Westmoreland. Robert married Christiana on 30 November 1835 in Whicham, Cumberland. Adam was the youngest born in 1842 in Whicham. They settled nearby in Green Cottage, Whitbeck.

Robert Ainsworth, Maria’s Great Great Grandfather  is integral to this story because he must have had an enormous influence upon his son Adam and clearly, he cared for his family if his last will and testament is anything to go by.

From what I can gather Robert was of humble origins, his father being a labourer and he is described in the 1841 census as an agricultural labourer. Sometime between 1841 and 1850, Robert’s wife, Christian died, leaving Robert as sole provider and carer for Adam, Christiana and Mary Ann. No record can be found to substantiate this but then no record of Christian can be found to indicate that she still lived beyond that time and when Robert married Agnes King in August 1850, he is described as a widower, working as a husbandman and resident in Dalton-in-Furness. By the time the 1851 census was taken the family was scattered with Robert and Agnes living alone in Hawcoat, an area now encompassed by Barrow-in-Furness and where Robert stayed for the rest of his life.

Somewhere along the line Robert got a financial break, how and in what form is not yet discovered but it seems to have coincided with the growth of Barrow from a tiny hamlet in the early 19th century to an enormous industrial town by the end of the century, following rapid expansion after the railway arrived in 1846 to transport iron ore and slate. Perhaps he was a shrewd investor, scraping a few pounds together to invest in various ways that came to fruition by him becoming owner of a good number of properties built in that ever expanding town.

In 1851 Robert is described as a licensed hawker. A hawker is a seller of merchandise that can easily be transported, back then either by hand or perhaps by horse and cart. The goods would have been inexpensive and usually consisted of handicrafts, cheap household items and food. The licence would have been issued by the local council. Robert must have been a good salesman and have worked incredibly hard in what was a competitive business because by 1861 he was trading as a grocer from his shop in Hawcoat.  Times got better and ten years later Robert is now a farmer of 5 acres, living at 34 Hawcoat. This too must have been lucrative and no doubt his early experience as an agricultural labourer and then a husbandman helped him enormously,  as ten years later and at the age of 70, Robert was now a retired farmer at 35 Hawcoat. It is interesting to note that afterwards Robert only ever described himself as a retired grocer, adding ‘master’ to make it appear more salubrious!

Robert and his second wife Agnes never had children and Robert became a widower for the second time when Agnes died in 1883. He did not marry for a third time.

So what about Adam? He was very young when his mother died. Separated from his sisters and father he is found living in Millom, near to where he had been born, in 1851 age 8, attending school, a lodger of Thomas, a shoemaker and Isabella Braithwaite, who may have been distant relations of Adam's. By the age of 18 Adam had found a trade, working as an apprentice tailor and living as a lodger with John Gawith, his wife, their five children and another lodger, in Barrow.

By 1864 Adam had completed his apprenticeship and moved to Kendal then part of the old county of Westmoreland to ply his trade as a tailor. There he met Margaret Haddath, a dressmaker, who was three years older than him. Margaret had been born illegitimate in the Workhouse in Ulverstone. She had been brought up by her land owning farmer grandparents and various unmarried aunts and uncles, on their 50 acres at Hard Crag near Ulverstone. Judging by what Adam achieved in life, I believe he must have had a presence that impressed Margaret because in 1865 she gave birth to Adam’s first child, a son named Albert Robert. The following year Adam married Margaret because by then a second child was on the way. Alfred was born before the end of the year!

Adam and Margaret remained in Kendal living in Highgate Yard, just off the main street that runs through the lakeland town. They had a daughter in the early part of 1871 and Margaret made a little extra cash by taking in four young boarders, all of them tailors. Unfortunately good fortune and industry was to end for Margaret. Her death on 17 September 1872 was reported in the local newspaper. Adam uprooted his young family and moved to Barrow, where his father was now farming and his sister Christiana was raising a brood herself, having married George Jackson. Adam presumably would have felt better able to raise his children with other family around him and possibly it occurred to him that he did not want his children to be boarded out as he had been.

Adam throughout his life, was never a man to let the grass grow under his feet. It is not known how he met with Elizabeth Clara Tatley, a young widow who had been living in Leeds but when 1874 was a brand new year he married her in Ulverstone. Elizabeth was the daughter of Donald and Martha Finlayson. She had been born in barracks in London as her father was a cavalryman, rising to the rank of drill sergeant. In early 1868 Elizabeth had married Jacob Tatley who sadly died almost immediately. There had been no time for children.

Adam and Elizabeth were industrious both personally and professionally.  Elizabeth not only had her readymade family of step-children to care for but she also had two daughters by Adam in 1874 and 1876. There was also a son, Donald born in 1879 but unfortunately he died as an infant the following year. They moved into numbers 62 and 64 Dalton Road Barrow, which they converted into one property. Husband and wife worked as drapers both in Dalton Road and also in their newly acquired premises on the main thoroughfare of Duke Street in central Barrow. The premises at number 85 remain there to this day having escaped Herr Hitler’s bombs during WW2 and is a listed building. With Adam’s skills as a tailor and the rapid expansion of his business during a period of general recession,I think it can be safely assumed that Adam offered outfitting services also, clothing the great and the good of Barrow in the finest textiles and the latest fashions. No doubt it helped that Adam never let any opportunity pass him by.

A glimpse into the world of Adam and Elizabeth can be found through reports of an action for damages they took against the local railway company. Ainsworth v Furness Railway Company was heard in court in January 1879. In October 1878 Elizabeth had travelled to Manchester with the company. Unfortunately for her, all platforms were busy when the train arrived and so the doors were opened and passengers asked to alight without the safety of a platform. Elizabeth fell onto the rails injuring her head, right arm and knee although not seriously. Now we all know from modern advertising that where there is blame there is a claim and the claim was for £1250, an enormous sum back then. The compensation was sought for lost takings in their shop owing to Elizabeth being indisposed and also for the incidental expenses of engaging a nurse. The appellants counsel considered that Elizabeth had been negligent in not alighting the train safely and indicated that she had been careless! Nevertheless Adam won but only received damages of £130, still a considerable sum.

It seems that by 1880 Adam had made attempts to embark upon a political career in a local sense. He stood in Newbarns Ward, Barrow in 1880 but came bottom of the list by a good margin. Perhaps Elizabeth’s actions with regards to a local newspaper editor was held against him with the local (mostly) male electorate taking a stance against Adam for not holding his wife in check. It is an incredible story.

Here is my transcription of a report from the Sunderland Daily Echo on 27 October 1880 but there are reports to be found in newspapers the length of the land. Notoriety hit the Ainsworth’s!

AN ELECTION EPISODE

The pleasure of horse-whipping editors is somewhat extensively realised in America and so long as the practice was confined to the other side of the Atlantic we could afford to laugh and pursue even tenour of our way unmindful of the existence of certain cowhide whips, the threatened use of which ere now has aroused more merriment than uneasiness in our editorial bosom. Man, however, is an imitative animal, so also is woman and therefore it is with feelings somewhat akin to alarm we find that the horse-whipping mania has manifested within a hundred miles of our border.
In this latest case no idle threats were used; the victim was unsuspectingly inveigled into a public room in a hotel and without being allowed a single chance of escape, was horsewhipped for an offence committed by one of the staff for whose literary misdeeds the poor editor was practically though not morally responsible. Worse still, the gentleman was horsewhipped by a woman whose sex protected her from bodily chastisement in return and for our own sake we sight that fact distinctly remembered. The assailant did not incur any personal danger because of her sex. Had she been a man-we won't say what might have happened but we advise people who are much given to crow loudly and to threaten still more loudly that editors are terrible fellows when their backs are up and are particularly well versed in all the most approved methods of self defence.
To some whose shoulders are in no danger a statement of the facts of the case under notice will doubtless be amusing; to others the action of Mrs Ainsworth will doubtless be a beautiful example of a wife’s vindication of the honour and the good name of her husband; to us who feel a personal interest in such proceedings ‘it is a case which merits the strongest condemnation from every right-thinking member of society’. In descending to details , it is necessary to give Mr Adam Ainsworth, of Barrow, a gratuitous advertisement. Mr Ainsworth is a draper and has two places of business one being under the personal superintendence of his better half. Like other men in a similar position, he aspired to municipal honours and issued an address to the burgesses of Newbarns Ward. His candidature was opposed by The Vulcan, a local newspaper, which advised Mr Ainsworth to retire and added that ‘he was a nobody and unfit to represent Newbarns Ward’. This notice appeared on Tuesday week and as  heretofor, the local papers have not ventured to give advice of this kind it created some commotion in Barrow. Mrs Ainsworth was exceedingly angry but evidently being of a frugal turn of mind, like the wife of another linen draper bold, she nursed her wrath until the arrival of the weekly half-day holiday on Thursday. Then she commenced a search after the author of the libel on her husband. She journeyed to The Vulcan office and was told the editor, Major Harrison, lived full 20 miles off at Grange. Nothing daunted, she continued her search by rail and trap until the evening, when the Major was unsuspectingly  landed at the Rigg’s Hotel at Grange, to meet a lady who wished to see him on a particular business. He entered the drawing room of the hotel, we are told in a very gentlemanly manner and asked for the lady whose pleasure it had been to send for him. Mrs Ainsworth stepped forward and asked if in the new arrival she saw Major Harrison. The latter replied that this was the case  and asked the name of the lady whom he had the pleasure of speaking to. ‘Mrs Nobody’ replied Mrs Ainsworth. After some further words (a local paper tells us) the Major began to ‘smell a rat’ and invited the lady into a room on the other side of the corridor. Mrs Ainsworth obeyed his request but took care to leave the drawing room door open. The Major, in reply to Mrs Ainsworth, admitted he was the editor of The Vulcan and was responsible for all that appeared in the columns of that paper. Mrs Ainsworth read to him the paragraph respecting Newbarns Ward and asked the Major if he was responsible for that. He said he was.  ‘Do you know Mr Ainsworth Sir?’ ‘No’, said the Major, ‘I never saw him in my life that I know of’. ‘Then’, replied Mrs Ainsworth ‘how do you know he is a mere nobody and not fit to represent Newbarns Ward? I may tell you that Mr Ainsworth is a respectable tradesman in Barrow and has been in business for eight years. May I ask if you are prepared to apologise for what you have said?’. The Major declined to do this but said Mr Ainsworth would get redress by writing to other journals and other journalists would like to have the opportunity of dealing with it. ‘You do not call yourself a journalist do you? I call you a scribbler. You have acted the part of a cur and I will give you a cur’s chastisement’. No sooner had she conveyed this  pleasant intimation to the Major than she unfolded a copy of The Vulcan, displayed a dog whip and striking the gallant Major over the face and shoulders three times saying ‘Take that, and that, and that’ quoting Shakespeare ‘Such duty as the subject owes the prince, Even such a woman oweth to her husband’. The Major seized her by the hands and told her she was a woman and he was not in a position to defend himself. She replied ‘I know I am a woman but treat me as if I were a man and give me into custody if you like.’ The Major declined to do this and there for the present, the story ends. If two over the shoulders and one over the cheek be an adequate return for simply telling a candidate  he is not fit to represent a ward how many three times three has a certain gentleman run up on our account. We may be truly thankful  that among the good ladies of Sunderland a Mrs Ainsworth has not been found, nor is one likely to be found. As for the sterner sex- well, we do not fear its members; we’ll build for them a ‘Byzantine place of worship’ and change their angry threatenings into the mild cooings of a dove”.

What a story! What a woman! You do wonder at the conversation between Elizabeth and Adam following this episode.

Adam was eventually elected to serve the people of Barrow for the Yarlswood Ward and served for many years.

In 1886 tragedy struck and for the second time in his life Adam became a widower. Elizabeth, strong minded and strong willed, whipper of a newspaper editor, was no longer there to defend her beloved husband.

At the end of the following year, Adam married again. The marriage was reported in The Liverpool Mercury on 8th December 1887. “AINSWORTH - PETERS November 22nd at St Peter’s Church, Church Street, Adam Ainsworth of Barrow to Eliza Peters, widow of the late Captain Peters, of Bristol.”

Eliza was born Eliza Jane Noble in Chester in 1852. When she married Adam she brought with her, her two children from her previous marriage who were just seven and eight years old.

Adam diversified in business becoming an auctioneer and not of bits and pieces either. Adam was auctioning property. On the 12th November 1890 he successfully auctioned various properties around the Barrow area including a valuable freehold hotel. Ironically, considering the origins of his first wife Margaret, Adam was elected to the Board of Guardians for the  workhouse where Margaret had been born, in April 1892. It will be interesting to read the minutes of meetings he participated in. I do hope he was kind and compassionate with any decisions he made. He remained a councillor.

By 1891 Adam and Eliza had moved to 55 Vincent Street Barrow and at the grand old age of 48 he had retired as an auctioneer. Perhaps home life was becoming even more chaotic than it had been previously for he and Eliza and had produced two sons in two years by then, with a third following in 1892. Alas Eliza died before the end of the decade and Adam then remained a widower for  five years before marrying again. His young children from his third marriage stayed  with him and with a succession of older widowed female servants, he managed both the children and also the various properties he had acquired over the years. It was one of these properties that put his name in the public domain of the newspapers once again. The Lancashire Evening Post on 18 July 1902 carried this report:

“At Barrow, this morning, ex-Councillor Adam Ainsworth was fined five shillings plus costs for permitting water to run to waste at two houses belonging to him. Ainsworth maintained that he was not responsible, having provided a stop tap on the supply pipe to prevent waste. He could not stand by the pipes and see the water turned off. It was stated that the reservoirs are falling fast. The Chairman appealed to the public to exercise the greatest care to prevent the waste, matter which was getting serious.”

Adam stood once again as a candidate in Yarlswood Ward in 1902 however, he was thwarted by two unstamped votes. From my research so far I believe he did not stand for election again.

It is a lovely thing to imagine Adam taking his young motherless children to the local confectioners to buy sweets and confections and thereby make the acquaintance of Lillian Dora Topping who worked for her family in their shop. At the age of 63 and after the deaths of three wives, Adam married Lillian who was 28 years his junior. She was no spring chicken and wasted no time at all in producing another set of children for Adam. In the space of five years she gave birth to four children, bringing his total of children across four marriages to twelve.. Adam must have been a virile man!

By 1911 Adam, Lillian, five of Adam’s children and a young female servant had moved to The Rallies on Hawcoat Lane Barrow, where he remained until the end of his days. I am led to believe that this was a large house and quite ostentatious.

Adam died on 13th November 1913. His fourth wife remained a widow for her remaining years. She lived for another 20 thereby putting to rest the legend that she had been driven to suicide, leaving a young child, not two years old, lying on the docks at Barrow. Margaret had died in Kendal with no docks nearby. Elizabeth appeared to be an incredibly strong woman whose youngest child was seven when she died and Eliza’s youngest child was also seven when his Mother died. An extensive search of newspapers around the dates concerned reveal no Coroner’s Inquests into deaths of women connected to Adam, so it seems for now, that he didn’t drive anyone to suicide.

There is no doubt he was a strong and driven man. He succeeded in everything he turned his hand to. He was virile into old age and certainly appears to have been charismatic if his marriage record is anything to go by. I can find no evidence of cruelty or evilness. His last will and testament demonstrates the love and respect he had for his fourth wife and for all of his children. The gross value of his estate was £6416 15s 2d, net £66 13s 2d. He has amassed some considerable wealth and it had to be stretched in nuemrous different directions. All of his furniture, plate, linen and other household and domestic effects, good and ornaments were left to his wife Lillian for use during her lifetime. She was also provided with an annuity of £2 per week for the duration of her life. The residue of his estate after discharging all debts and mortgages was distributed evenly between all of his children from all four marriages.

So how was  the legend born that Adam had stolen the Jackson family fortune? I believe the answer lies with Adam’s father, Robert.

Robert as you will recall was a self made man who rose from nothing to some standing in the local community. His middle child Christiana married George Jackson in 1859. George was the son of an agricultural labourer who was still working the land when he died of heart disease at 71. He left nothing. George worked as a labourer or agricultural labourer for most of his life although by his 50s he had become a horse-keeper in Barrow. George and Christiana worked hard all of their lives providing for their four children that survived childhood. Three did not. There was no money there.

When Christiana’s father Robert Ainsworth died in 1895, a retired farmer living in the arguably the best district in town at the time, he left an estate valued at £211 4s 8d net. Not bad. He also left an extremely complicated will, which rather nicely details his assets and for me, explains why Maria thought the Jackson’s had money to steal.

Robert left two houses in New Street Barrow and two houses in Gleaston along with his shares in two ships named George Fisher and Julia to his son Adam Ainsworth.

He bequeathed a life interest in 5 properties in Anson Street, Barrow to his daughter Mary Ann. On her death he detailed that the five properties were to be distributed in their entirety and entirely to her five children.

To Christiana Jackson, Maria’s Great Grandmother, Robert bequeathed a life interest in four properties scattered about Barrow. On her death, three of the properties were left to three of Christiana’s children Mathias, Amos and Albert. The fourth property was once again bequeathed as a life interest, to Robert’s  granddaughter Agnes. It is fair to say looking at what happened to Agnes and also her actions, that there was a strained relationship between her and her father George Jackson and perhaps Robert had disapproved of her behaviour too. Once Agnes died that final property was to pass entirely to Agnes’s daughter, Christiana Millward.

So the Jackson’s did in the end own property via Christiana but it was not stolen from them by Adam.

The source of the animosity towards Adam is probably found at the feet of his sister Christiana or maybe I’m being unfair but it is easy to imagine Maria’s mother being heavily influenced during the first eleven years of her life by her Grandmother Christiana, who perhaps felt slighted by her brother in some way that we will never know about and who didn’t die until 1919.

There is much research yet to do but oh how I wish I could have chatted with Maria about what I have found and perhaps got her to reconsider her thoughts about Adam. I have a suspicion that Maria was actually very proud to have been related to Adam but we all need a bogeyman in our lives and Adam was convenient!

15 April 2017

Planning for Sundials

My recent blog about proposals for two sundials in Aldridge Village caused a little controversy.  This is good. My aim was to draw attention to the project because so few people in Aldridge were aware of what might happen. That aim has been fulfilled with the post becoming my most viewed ever.

I am pleased to let everyone know that there is good news with regard to democracy and accountability. I have been in correspondence with Councillor Tim Wilson and he informs me that Mr Cooke has been informed that a planning application will be required for any proposed sundials. This means that should any applications be made, then everyone who wishes to make a comment either for or against the proposals, will be able to do so.

Good news indeed.

Other issues have been raised through research into this subject and I shall revisit them with you all. We all need to participate in local decision making if we want what is best for our local community.

Thank you to everyone who supported me through the less than savoury aspects of attempting to ensure that accountability and democracy are promoted.

31 March 2017

Sundials and Democracy

First two warnings. There are people who will be upset by the contents of this blog. No personal offence is intended however, when the local democratic process and possibly planning laws are being circumvented then someone needs to speak out. A debate is needed. People need to be informed about decisions that are being made behind their back by a small number of people who belong to several local groups, in my words a cabal, about a much loved local green space and then to be allowed their say. Secondly, this is dry, very dry. Sit down with a drink whilst reading!

We can all agree that The Rotary Club of Aldridge working with Aldridge Croft Community Group, Aldridge Village Partnership and Walsall Council have brought about some lovely improvements to the environment of our 'village' centre. The Peace Garden by the Elms Island, the lovely improvements made to the Croft a couple of years ago and the Ellie (Simmonds) Sculpture have enhanced the village. The Aldridge Volunteer  Gardeners are out there in all weathers creating beautiful floral displays through the village and I cannot applaud them enough. They have brought honours in the forms of various awards over the last few years and long may they continue.

Alas, a proposal brought forward by the Rotary Club working with Aldridge Croft Community Group to install two sundials on what they call 'the crofts' (there is only one croft but the grass adjacent to the war memorial outside the church is being referred to as the 'little croft' by them, not a name that may be familiar to many) is probably not something you may not have heard about, let alone been able to express a view about and I believe, brings into disrepute the local democratic process. There appears to be a local cabal that is involved with all the local groups in Aldridge, that feel they are empowered to make decisions that affect the wider community and the village environment without reference to the community at large. Their intentions may be for the local good but the avoidance of true consultation and the democratic process means their intentions are meaningless.

The story begins nearly two years ago now. A proposal for the sundials project was put to a meeting of Aldridge Village Partnership by The Rotary Club. This proposal was never put to the vote but apparently was 'widely approved'. I take issue with this. How can something be widely approved if it hasn't been voted upon and has not been brought to the attention of the general population of Aldridge? The correct way for discussing changes to common and public areas of our village and in particular the Conservation Area around The Croft is to put it out to WIDE consultation through various methods including VISIBLE displays within the shopping centre, a display in the local library of several weeks and wide advertising of those events through local newspapers and social media. This is not an all encompassing list because there are other ways to consult with the people who live in Aldridge but you get the general idea.

Without wide consultation at any level and without discussion with the people of Aldridge about how money of the magnitude granted could be used to better the environment say for our young people, an application was made to the Tesco Bags of Help community grant scheme (this is where  your 5 pence for plastic carrier bags goes to) by the Aldridge Croft Community Group and they were granted £10,000, yes ten thousand pounds, for a proposed project for which no consultation had been carried out!

This is where the steam rollering begins in earnest. A small stall was set out in the shopping centre one Saturday last month to 'consult'. It must have been small and hidden because I went into the Village that grey and rainy day specifically to make my opinions known. I didn't see it. Following that there was a few weeks of non-publicised 'consultation' in the library where people were invited to make comments about the scheme. I am told the majority of comments were against the project however there is no proof either way because the evidence remains the property of one person.

So what is this project? Here's a leaflet:
Their plans seem to be changing and it is now believed that the first sundial will be located adjacent to the Children's Playground on The Croft and will be in situ by June this year. The information about that in their own words is as follows:

It is proposed that the Sundial be located to the side of the existing pathway that connects the Children’s Play Area to Little Aston Rd. This is in an area where some very old and diseased trees were removed and where the feature Tree Sculptures have been added.


We will use pavers, together with local red clay brick for the special features. These will include a selection of brickwork imprinted with verse, dates of significant conflicts and two sculpted brickwork features, set in the ground.



A white Peace Post will display words of Remembrance.

Single-leg information Lecterns will include Remembrance Poetry from local schools, information on the purpose of the sundial and acknowledgement of the sponsors.
The Peace Post and the Lecterns will be the only features that will be above ground level."

By June 2017? What has happened to Planning Permission? Surely changes to be made to what is a Common within a Conservation Area should be subject to planning permission? When a direct question about planning permission was asked at a recent Aldridge Village Partnership meeting of Bob Cooke, who is the sundial project coordinator, replied that no planning permission is needed. Really? The local planning department when asked the same question by at least two different people, replied that planning permission was most definitely needed.

So you may ask, why is planning permission so important. Under circumstances such as this where a scheme has been dreamed up, funding obtained and plans put in place for implementation with only lip service paid towards any consultation and discussion as to whether an enormous sum from a community charity should be used for such a scheme, it is the only avenue open for the general public to actually view the plans, consider the plans, to ask questions and to consider do we really need and want this. Apparently if anyone does have any questions, comments etc then they can contact Bob Cooke. Who is Bob Cooke I ask myself and how is he accountable to the local community. Point is he isn't. At least if a planning application is made and considered our local councillors and the planning committee can take into account the views of their constituents and be held accountable at the ballot box for any decisions made.

If you lead people to believe that the powers that be have already been consulted and that permission has been granted then just like in the George Orwell novel 1984, it becomes the truth. A search on the council web site for any such planning applications produces a big fat zero. That is the truth.

Do we need two sundials? They are apparently inspired by the analemmatic sundial located at The National Memorial Arboretum near Alrewas. Aldridge is not Alrewas, nor a destination for those who wish to remember. It remembers its own in its own way. Aldridge already has a beautiful war memorial adjacent to the Parish Church, that is cherished by the local community and is the scene every year of an extremely well attended memorial service by both young and old. The young in particular are conspicuous in their presence because there are so many of them from various different groups. The local schools in the area have always held events for their students to inform of the role of local men in world wide conflict, I know because I have two children that have gone through the education system in Aldridge at different schools. Even Year One pupils are led to the memorial each year to begin the process of learning to pay your respects for those who have walked before them.

Alas the local services held each year may possibly be under threat but the memorial will still be there inscribed with the names of those young people from Aldridge who served and died. Many do not keep their visits to just a November Sunday. I go regularly as I do to the Commonwealth War Graves in the cemetery. I am not the only one and groups of school children can often be seen with their teachers taking something new from their surroundings. History projects abound, researching individual names on the memorial, the children learning that these young people had families who loved them just as they do.

I show you my card here. I personally see no need for sundials around the village centre. The children and young people of our community already learn and are educated about remembrance. They don't need something else to prompt them such as plastic poppies, bricks and posts. The older people don't need them either. There are benches there right by the memorial where weary legs can be rested and thoughts allowed to formulate. I don't need to see the grass right behind the memorial scarred by an unnecessary and totally inappropriate sundial. The clean run of grass gives a perfect setting to see the memorial in all its glory. Placing obstacles before it will merely obscure the present majesty.

Furthermore I do not wish more of the green space of the Croft, our village common, taken up by something that is so unnecessary. Let us spend that money obtained under what I believe are false pretences because there was no consultation with local people prior to asking for the money for a proposed project, on something that the young people of Aldridge really need. Consultation really should be carried out before a project seeks funding and not afterwards or even at all!

Let us close the gate on the local cabal horse race that gallops rapidly on making decisions about the future of the village with no meaningful consultation and a complete disregard for democracy. Let us also insist that no work is started on any project until it has been properly debated and discussed at all levels. Let the voices of Aldridge be heard. You don't have to agree with my point of view about the sundials. I just want everyone to be allowed their say.