“There used to be a playground” in the shadow of St Peter’s.
As I said in part one; my long journey through life started above the “Londes” in a Victorian built terraced house in Nursery Street.
In 1937 If you follow the line from the rooftop of James Beatties store in the centre of this scene bearing to your left across the roof of the majestic Retail Market. Then follow the path of North Street as it passes the Wholesale Market on its way north to the five ways at Dunstall.
At the top left corner you will see a patch of waste ground then known as “Mongers Patch”, this small piece of ground ran alongside the right of “The Londes” and separated Lawyers Field and Deanery Row from Nursery Street, my family home and that of my grandparents.
To give you more of an idea of what a delightful adventure playground this area was to grow up in, just out of this view on your left stood the Molineux Grounds home of the “Wolves” and a few hundred yards further on, the splendid “West Park” and then just out of view, on your right, was for us kids “The icing on the cake” Faulkland patch, Littles Lane, and the Canals and Railways complex.
THE WAR YEARS
This wartime photograph taken from the front of the “Feathers” public house an small area my father always referred to as The wide causeway, would have a 50 yard long Air Raid Shelter built on it at this time and shortly afterwards, the cast iron railings that enclosed the Feathers would be claimed by the Government for the War effort.
Also in the photo on the far left on the corner of Birchfield Street you can just make out Marstons Lock factory, who had gone over as most other manufacturers had to war time production and were making Hand Grenades.
The end house in the foreground with the evocative posters displayed on it fronted North Street, opposite Vincent street, it was owned by George Monger with the south entrance to the “Londes” and Mongers patch on its right.
My early memories of the war as it intruded into our lives in Nursery Street.
In the early day’s I don’t recall seeing dad much. He was always at work or in bed or perhaps on fire watch duties. But mom was always there. I remember we were all given rubber gas masks in case poison gas was dropped from aeroplanes, and I recall watching them delivering Anderson shelters from the Railway goods yard in Littles Lane, I think there was only one family that could afford one in Nursery Street.
I can still remember the air-raid siren and when it sounded we should have rushed to the large shelter that had been erected on our back yard, it had brick walls and a foot thick concrete roof, placed there if needed to to accommodate the five families adjoining ours in case of Air – raids. But it was never used for that purpose as most of the families would go down there own cellars or the one’s next door belonging to a neighbour. Using the cellar was much better than using the damp smelling construction outside especially during the winter.
Our cellar was rather basic as I remember, I recall a rocking horse down there and also a large rubber object with a perspex front this was to place my baby sister Mary in born in 1941, in should there be a gas attack. It was never used. I recall my mom being more than terrified when she heard the sirens go, as her mother lived in Colliery Road, off the Willenhall road where there had been a large bomb dropped, destroying houses in St Giles Crescent close by at that time.
In July 1942 we had a small taste of what had been suffered by Coventry and Birmingham when incendiaries rained down from the sky over Wolverhampton.
In one incident staff at the Royal Hospital kicked clusters of incendiaries from the roofs into the streets below, luckily only a wooden stores was destroyed.
A house, not far from us opposite Beaumont Street in Lower Stafford Street, I believe had been incendiary bombed, and I remember the next morning standing on tiptoe looking through what had been the front room window, all the brickwork was intact only the different patterned wallpaper separated the first floor and the bedrooms, the roof and the floors had gone.
It was so strange to look down into the cellar, and then to look up to see the sky through the missing roof, and that smell of charred wood I’ll never forget.
Looking back now at the war years they seemed to be full of wonderful activities for us kids. Most of the time we were left to our own devices, playing on derelict sites. We made dens and camps, and collected waste paper and cardboard to take to Blackwells Paper merchants in Hughes Street to earn the price of a ticket to the pictures at the Olympia in Thornley Street.
When the war ended in Europe in May 1945 I was just coming eight. It was an exciting time for us kids. There would be street parties, and bonfires would be lit on any bits of waste ground.
But as it turned out, most of these fires were held in the street itself.
Well, on what began as a wonderful day, and an even better night with plenty to eat and drink, I will always remember for the wrong reasons and with bitterness and regret.
As long as I could remember we had this loving mongrel bitch; dad had called her Pats. She was devoted to me and followed me everywhere. She would be waiting on the step as I came home from school, and would race down the street to meet me.
One time when dad was cowering over me threatening to pale me for one of many misdemeanours, patsy tore across the room and took a piece out of dad’s trousers and backside. I really loved that dog.
On V E Night, Patsy had been locked in the house but by some means she had got out to look for me, and during the noise of the festivities she bit this young lad who lived near to where the bonfire was sited, above the “Londes” at the bottom of the street.
His Mother came round to our house the next day, and through some kind of threat, forced my dad to have Patsy put down. Dad took her to the vet without my knowledge, and when I found out I was distraught for days.
We later found out someone had thrown a firework behind the dog which had startled her and was probably the reason she had gone a bit crazy. To make matters worse, Dad said that he probably wouldn’t have had her put down, had he known that earlier, and this only added to my misery.
I never went near or forgave that lady again for the pain she caused me that summer of 1945.
PART 3 COMING SOON!
“The Post War years” in the shadow of St Peter’s.