Distance and Strangeness: the murder of Anne Spencer

I sometimes feel like I've spent the last three years trying to figure out my place within history. I still feel like there's probably a huge mountain of scholarship that I've completely missed, but in general I'm starting to work out what historiography is (I'm not a historian by background - everyone else just calls it 'the literature' …

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Black Country Irish: Walsall in the 1850s

Sometimes, otherwise wonderful digital sources are a great frustration. John Denvir, in his survey of the Irish in Britain, points to a mysterious attack upon the Irish in Walsall, in 1851. Excellent, I thought: a story to hook a post on - there are three Walsall newspapers on the British Newspaper Archive. Of course, none …

“Slums” of the Black Country: Town End Bank, Walsall

Class distinction, democracy and proper drains. John Betjeman, In Westminster Abbey The protagonist of Betjeman's satirical poem unwittingly summarised the approach of mid-Victorian society to many issues. As we've seen, poor drainage is one of the emblematic signifiers of a unsanitary area, and was the consistent complaint of the Post's correspondent. It almost goes without saying that the areas poorly drained …

The Fiery Holes

I love an evocative placename, and they hardly get more redolent than Fiery Holes, a lost settlement that lives on only in the name of the pub on its site, now more famous as the gathering point for the Black Country's pony-and-trap drivers. The site is just to the West of Moxley, itself only a small …

Pottering

I'm just back from my hols from work, which mostly consisted of abortive DIY and collecting things to do the do it yourself myself, if you see what I mean. On Sunday we took a trip up to Stockport to collect some doors. Whilst there we set off seeking some history of my own - when …

Coalpool cottages

I came across this lovely picture last week when scouting for @BlackCountryPic, posted on Flickr by Phil Broadbent. This is a row of cottages in Coal Pool, now a suburb on the northern side of Walsall, not far from the more substantial village of Rushall, taken in the 1930s.  Coal Pool itself is a fairly old hamlet, …

Lichfield Canal

There was minor debate last evening on the way home from Lichfield. We were there for a pretty lovely concert courtesy of Laura Mvula and the Lichfield Festival; it had my erstwhile gig reviewer muscles twitching with adjectives for sure. Rather than take the obvious route home, we made the most of having a car …