talks about life in Hurst Hill and remembers his
father, Thomas Grainger.
In my early days Hurst Hill was not much more than a
village, standing in open fields where to-day there is nothing but
houses. We could go for walks all over the fields and over Sedgley
Beacon. Everyone left their doors wide open and, if they were out,
would even leave a note on the door asking the bread man to go in and
collect his money from the table. There was no locking up at night
before you went to bed. There were only three or four gas lamps
scattered around but you could walk safely round the streets at
night. The industry in the village was mostly people working in
shops in their back yards, making pots and pans and anything else out of
We all lived in Rifle Street, father, mother, my brother
Kenneth and me. I was christened Thomas Arthur. But as my
father was Thomas too things got confusing, so everyone took to calling me
by my second name, Arthur. I also had a sister, Iris, but sadly she
died, aged only 11, in 1942. That was also the year I started work.
I went to St. Mary's School. We boys used to play
around the village getting up to the sort of mischief boys have always got
up to. One of our games was White Horse Kick Back. We chose
someone by eeny-meeny-miny-mo and then backed him up to someone's front
door. Then the rest of us stood in the street and chorused:
"White horse, kick back!". The boy by the door then gave
two back kicks on the door and he and the rest of us fled down the street
before the irate householder found out who had tricked him.
Another version of the game was to use a length of string to tie together
two door knockers on opposite sides of the street, then knock on one of
the doors. The owner would open his door, which would cause the
string to pull on the opposite door knocker. With luck the first
owner would shut his door before the other opened his, thereby causing the
string to knock on the first door again. This, we hoped, would go on
for a long time. One day we decided to do this on a full
scale. We chose Lime Street in Hurst Hill for this operation and
managed to tie together all the door knockers in the street. There
was very little traffic on the roads in those days but just as we had
finished a furniture van turned into the street and drove along the whole
length, tripping every knocker as it went.
We used to scrump the occasional apple from the trees of Joe
Hartland, the undertaker, even though there was a risk he would set his
dogs on us. Joe was one of the better off people in the village but
that did not stop him from waiting around until my father came by so he
could beg a pinch of snuff from him. Many people took snuff in those
days and so did Joe - but I don't think he ever bought any. As well
as being an undertaker Joe used to make wooden patterns for Mobberley
Bricks. He used to get us kids to carry the new or repaired patterns
from his place up to Mobberley's, telling us we would get a penny for our
trouble. But whenever we got to Mobberley's he would tell us he had
his best suit on and so he had no change on him. We never did get
An advert for Mobberley Bricks from the
Wolverhampton Chamber of Trade magazine for 1920.
Then when there was a funeral Joe would get us to push the
wheeled bier up to the church, ready to take the coffin, and then back again
after the service. He would always give us strict instructions not
to ride on it. But we always did. He also told us we would get
a penny for this work too. But we never got that either. No
wonder Joe got rich.
My father worked in the rolling mills at Sankey's. It
was always said he was very good at his job and he became a foreman.
When pay day came round the company paid him and not the men in his
team. He had to pay them. The work was not only hard but it
was hot. The men all used to drink a lot of beer, simply to replace
the fluids they had lost in the heat of the mills. The local pubs
did well out of men like that. I once heard that our local vicar had
gone in to one of our local pubs to try to draw his attention to the evils
of drink. He asked the publican which customer he preferred,
the one who sat there all night with a half of beer or the one who came in
and drank 15 pints in quick succession. The publican said:
"Neither, Vicar. I prefer the man who comes in, downs a quick
half, and then puts two bottles in his pocket to take home. Just
like you do".
It was a hard life in the mills and there were a lot of
hard men around. My father used to tell me how, on Sundays, after the
church service (and everyone went to church, though how much notice they
took of the service I am not sure) two men would often put two maiding
tubs (that you did the washing in) next to each other. Then one made
would stand in each tub and they would fight each other. Some of
their jokes at work were a bit rough too. My father told me how a
new man appointed to cart things around the works in a barrow was very
short. But his fellow workmen insisted his barrow was not big enough
so they built up the sides. The result was that he could not see
over the sides. So his fellow workmen would help him by giving
directions. They would keep telling him to go forward a bit, forward
a bit, until he and the barrow toppled over into the canal.
Even as young man my father had been keen on sports and
other activities. This photo shows him and other members of the
Hurst Hill Bicycle Club which was run from St. Mary's church. (My
father is recumbent at the front with his bugle. The lad just above
his head may be my Uncle Joe. The lady in the very big hat may be
Mrs. Cadwallder, a grand dame of the district). It was
all very properly organised and they all had club badges which you can see
on their lapels. They also had a very complicated rule book which contained
rules like the one saying that no one as allowed to cycle ahead of the
club leader. If you did you had to pay a fine. If you swore
you had to pay a fine. If anyone was straggling, my father was be
called on to blow his bugle and, if the stragglers did not catch up in the
time allowed, they had to pay a fine too. My father's other job with
the bugle was to announce the club's arrival in each town or village they
came to. I think the idea was that the local tea shop would know to
get the tea ready. But the local pub would also know to get a few
rounds ready. The club used to do day trips to places like
Bridgnorth but they also did longer runs. They would ride to
somewhere like Llangollen one day; spend the second day in and around
Llangollen; and then ride back on the third day. And all on heavy,
old fashioned roadsters.
My Uncle Joe lost one arm during World War I when he was
hit by an aircraft propeller. It ripped off one arm and gashed open
the other from elbow to wrist. He was in hospital for 18
months. For a long time he was not allowed solid food. Then
they told him he could eat solid food again. When the solid food
turned up it was jelly!
My father was also involved in football. In this
photo he is the trainer, which you can tell by the fact that he has his
jacket off and a towel over his shoulder. On the football is written
"Woodsetton F.C. 1914-15 Bird's Cup and League Winners".
But most of his life he was involved with bowls.
The mount of this photograph has printed on it:
The Peacock Bowls Challenge Cup
Presented by Mr. T. S. Peacock August 1924
To be competed for by the Midland Branches of Messrs. Guest, Keen &
Manor Works Team, Messrs. Joseph Sankey and Sons, Ltd.
Winners of the Challenge Cup, August 9, 1924
J. Clements, T. Grainger, S. Fownes, I. Mills, S. Rowley, B. Harper, J.
R. Allen, G. Hodgetts, F. Mills (Captain), A. Hewitt, J. Hewitt, J.
Heywood, C. Holcroft.
This photo has handwritten captions:
Sankey's Bowling Club
Winners of Charity Cup
J. Bromley M. Banks A. Bate
T. Grainger P. Allen G. Rowley O. Clayton G.
T. Clarke F. Caddick C. Holcroft H. Rowley R.
Allen J. Holmes
Those two photos are obviously of my father's works
team. But the following photos show him in what seem to be other
teams, probably pub teams. Many pubs in those days had bowling
greens and my father was a keen player. He was also a good player
and was said to be near county standard.
In this photo my father is fourth from the right in the
middle row. The man next to him has kept his cap on but those in the
front row have taken them off and put them on the ground in front of them,
along with the cups and bowls. Note the watch chains many of the men
are wearing, with things hanging from them; the watch itself would be in a
waistcoat pocket at one end of the chain.
Here my father is second from the left in the back
row. He and one other man are wearing bowlers. That was the
sign of a foreman. The working men are wearing flat caps. The
ones in trilbies may have been office workers. In those days you
carried your status symbols on your head.
In this one my father is in the middle of the front row
behind the cup. I suppose he was team captain by then. But his
bowler is still at the slightly rakish angle at which it appears in all
click here to return to