Mellors Sauce and Samson Moore >>
Fatal Accident - The Tragic Death of Walter Thornhill >>
Memories of Tower Road by Dennis Moody >>
A Letter from Denver by Eric Stevenson >>
Just a Memory of One Family Who Lived in Aston by Colleen Dawson >>
My Father - Val Siviter >>
Manor Vinegar Tower Road
The employees of The Manor Vinegar at Tower Road were greatly saddened by a tragedy that occurred to two of their fellow workers in 1886. James Huddlestone and Thomas Wilkins had been life long friends and worked side by side at the brewery. One day an accident occurred in which both men drowned in a vat of vinegar.
Their joint headstone in a local graveyard (Aston Parish Church) bears the touching inscription " In their death they were not divided ".
James Huddlestone left a widow; Sarah Huddlestone aged 42 and four children. Edith aged 13 Frank aged 10 Arthur aged 8 Henry James aged 2. Thomas Wilkins left a widow; Selina Wilkins aged 38 and three children, John aged 19 William aged 16 Henry aged 3.
My mom and dad had been managing The Bulls Head pub on the corner of Fentham Road and Birchfield Road just a short walk from The Orient Picure House on Six Ways Aston. After twelve years of running pubs in Brum they moved us to a Newsagents, Tobacconists and General stores at 107 Tower Rd. Aston, which had previously been run by a Mr. Percy Fleet. This was a three up, three down terraced house with the front being the shop area. This left a small sitting room an even smaller kitchen and three small bedrooms upstairs. One of the bedrooms was a box room over the kitchen. Below was a dark cellar which had the left over great green bottles from the days when Acid was stored and sold. Here we lived, me, my three brothers and sister, my mom and dad and my dad's sister for God knows how long.
They traded as K & D Moody Ltd and amongst others supplied the Alpha Television Studios on Aston Cross with newspapers, magazines and bulk orders of cigarettes (mainly Park Drive and Senior Service). My dad volunteered me to do the paper-round even though I was under age; for which I received the princely sum of 10/-. (ten shillings equiv. 50p). The paper-round started at 5.30 am and lasted about an hour and a half, so I was up at the crack of dawn with my dad to prepare for the round. I then did it again at 5.30 pm. Some of the old newspapers which have now gone from circulation were, The Daily Sketch, The Sunday Mercury, The Sunday Pictorial and The Birmingham Post and Mail before it became the tabloid Evening Mail.
It was on this paper-round that I had my first exposure to "Girly Books". One of the customers had a monthly order of "Parade", very tame by today's standards, but nevertheless an inportant part of my education. Every Saturday evening meant two paper-rounds, since that flimsy pink paper "The Argus" was always published later with all the football results. As I delivered it I collected the weekly payments from all the customers and very often ended up with about 5 Bob in tips. Sunday night was bath night for us kids, which meant taking down the old galvanized bath off the back of the kitchen door, laying it in front of the coal fire in the sitting-room and filling it with hot water, boiled in large saucepans on the old gas Parkinson Cowan Princess cooker. Guess who was always last in the bath?
Right ! Mornings were fun too, waiting for your turn to use the sink in the kitchen to have a wash (swill as my mom called it); Oh, and don't forget the outside toilet with squares of newspaper hung on an old wire coat-hanger. My mom used to say "You kids don't know you're born". In that case, mine certainly don't. My kids have never seen tin baths, outside loos, silverfish, rats in the backyard shed, bed bugs and a host of other verminous creatures which were part of life in those days.
My sister was born at the shop and the District nurse, Nurse Johns, used to turn up weekly on her motor scooter to attend to my mom and the baby. The smell of Dettol always reminds me of those visits. Every Saturday I had to push the week`s washing in an old pram to the laundrette (the bagwash) up on the Lozells Rd., then fetch 20 lbs potatoes, 5 lbs carrots, 5 lbs parsnips and a large spring cabbage from Henney`s on Potters Hill. In the winter I fetched coal in an old wooden barrow from the coal yard up by the egg grading station. I also had to go and regularly fill two old jerry cans with paraffin from a shop on the corner of Tower Rd. and Potters Hill opposite Henney's, but I can't recall the name. The paraffin was Esso Blue and I used to stink of it after filling the heaters in the bedrooms.
In the backyard I had to turn sheets through the old wooden-rollered mangle and pound galvanized tubs full of towels in hot soapy water with a bosher (copper dolly).
The people in Tower Rd. came from all walks of life and were a hard working community. Everybody new everybody else and weekend entertainment often extended to watching or listening to marital arguments in the street. There were factory workers, park-keepers, bookies, shop-keepers, clerks, steeple-jacks, coppers, brickies, labourers, squaddies, (I remember two guys who joined up, deserted and ended up being taken back by Red Caps in military jeeps) and of course the regular visitors to Winson Green (HMP). The back-houses were communities unto themselves. Rows of back to back houses up dark entries leading into courtyards. Kids played football, cricket, hide-and-seek, hot-rice and British bulldog up these entries. Scraps and skirmishes took place there and many a bruise and grazed knee were the outcome. I put a couple of windows through playing football, my dad paid for the glass and my mate's dad fitted the new panes. Midland Counties Dairies delivered the milk, the Co-op horse and cart brought the bread, if you were lucky you'd get a goldfish off the rag and bone man in exchange for a rusty bike and on summer evenings Mr. Whippy came with his ice cream van.
I'm rambling on a bit now, so back to the subject matter; what businesses were in and around Tower Rd, Potters Hill and Sutton St. ? On Potters Hill was the greengrocer Mr Henney with his old Red Setter called Rusty, he was a dead ringer for W.C. Fields, Mr. Henney not Rusty. Next door was the chemist, Biddles where a fantastic display of odd shaped bulbous bottles contained brilliantly coloured liquids with labels written in Gothic script. Across the road was Sheargolds the toy/joke shop where you could by artificial dog muck, itching powder and stink bombs. (stink bombs were always being thrown on Saturdays in the Orient between rival gangs of ABC Minors). Down the hill towards Newtown Row was the Aston Hipp where we'd peep through the doors at the strippers and read the posters announcing the next wrestling bout between Doctor Death and Mick McManus.
Further on was Woolies, Foster Bros. and The House that Jack Built. Back in Tower Rd. was the egg grading station, a coal merchant, another Newsagent (Mr. Ridley or Wrigley), Les the barber, Davies the bookies, Dennis Hurley's factory up the entry behind the Bookie and Tower Pressings producing light industrial stuff. On the corner of Tower Rd. and Sutton St. was Hiltons the greengrocer where you could buy live chickens, or old man Hilton would wring their necks and pluck'em while you waited. Around the corner from him was the butcher`s, Princes and across the road from there the small bakery, Browns I believe it was called (I stand to be corrected on this one), whose delicious aromas of freshly baked bread, cakes and rolls filled the air early in the mornings.
On the opposite corner to Hiltons was the Ansells pub, The White Swan managed by Billy Ross, who was and ex sparring partner for local boxers. My elder brother had a barman`s job there and I used to plague him for packets of Smiths Crisp, the ones with the blue salt bag inside. At the bottom of Tower Rd. past Upper Thomas Street school, was Ansells brewery and the HP Sauce factory on Aston Cross. Just around the corner by the 39 bus stop was Thompsons the butchers where I regularly fetched the best smoked bacon and tomato sausage in the world from.
Victoria Rd. swimming baths was another release from congested living, where you shared the green chlorinated waters with about 100 other shouting kids, before getting out to dry off, use the old Brylcreem dispenser and hairdryer (for 1d. or 2d.), after which you handed in the dark blue Birmingham City Council (tie-on) swimming trunks that you'd hired. I was there when they finally roped off the diving boards before removing them completely.
Then there was that severe winter, was it 1960 or 1961 ? I was still doing the paper-round. Snow and ice was piled high in the gutters, buses and vans got stuck on the hill coming up from Birchfield Rd. to Six Ways Aston. It was the first time I'd seen burst toilet cysterns that had frozen solid as the water cascaded. The doors to some of the outside loos couldn't be opened for solid ice on the inside holding them shut. After doing the paper-round I went round the back-houses with a shovel, a bass broom and a tub of Cerebos, getting a tanner or a shilling for clearing the paths of ice and snow. Just before I close, and I could go on for ages, I recall a couple of regular occurences in Tower Rd. The first was the alarming number of reported break-ins to electricity meters. Funny, but it always occurred when it was time to pay what had been had "on tick" and my mom and dad regular whiped "the slate" for customers after being paid by them, in full, in one shilling pieces !
Then, more sadly, on two occasions as I was doing my paper-round, I detected the odious smell of gas seeping through the letter boxes of a couple of houses. My dad and the local copper had to break down the door of one of these houses to try and resucitate the poor unfortunate chap who'd stuck his head in the gas oven, but it was too late, he was already as stiff as a board. (I still remember the deceaseds` names but won't write them here out of respect for surviving relatives). Tower Rd. Aston was an experience and an education; it toughened you up and prepared you for everything life had to throw at you. I wouldn't want my kids to go through it, but I'm glad in a way that I did. One important rule I learnt, "Never, ever call an Aston lad, Chicken "! The bruises and black eyes have long gone but the memories are as fresh as yesterday`s.
My brother came to live in the US in the mid 70's.We came to visit several times and decided to emigrate and make our home here in Denver in 1980. I have been back to England every year so far as I promised my mother that I would for a long as I could. She will be 100 yrs old in Feb next year.
My memories of Aston are very sketchy as we left there when I was 6 after the HP malt brewery was hit. I know that there was an outdoor on the corner of Tower Rd and Upper Thomas St and that a few houses down from us was a sweet shop kept by a Miss Dunn. She was a nice lady who had a club foot, so wore a large boot.
At the bottom of the street on the opposite side was another shop kept by a Mrs Cadell (Caddell?) My mother and her two daughters - Edie and Olive - were good friend for a large part of their lives.
My mother's family lived in the Aston area for a great many years. Their last name is Inson. My grandparents were Joseph and Charlotte (Lottie). They had a son, Joseph, my mother Charlotte, Albert, Adelaide and Elsie. For a time, they lived at 2/164 Upper Thomas Street and that is where my parents met. Dad was a miner from Co Durham. In 1931/32 he left the pit and came to live with his sister, Sally Farley at 1/164 Upper Thomas St, and the rest is history.
I remember going to Upper Thomas St Infant School when I was 4yrs 9months old. The things that stick in my mind are the smell of the chalk on the dusty wooden floors, and the toilets down at the bottom of the playground. They were in a row - some with doors - and were dark and stinky. The big boys used to wait down there and frighten us "babies" to death. There was a church hall opposite our house where the boys brigade band used to practice.
After the beginning of the war, no one was allowed to blow whistles, - as that was an air raid precaution, but the bandmaster was still doing it during practice and I went home shouting to my Dad (who was and ARP warden) to get him locked up!! The house that we lived in was owned or rented by a Mrs Kirkham. A few months before we left there, she went to live with relatives in Kidderminster.
1934 was the year that my parents Pat and Lillian Faragher were married and began their life in Aston. Father had found a house to rent in Tower Road. Tower Road ran from Potter's Hill down to Aston Cross where the famous Aston Cross Clock was situated and still is today.
Upper Sutton Strcct and Upper Thomas Street divided Tower Road into three sections, en route to were it's other well known landmark i.e. Ansell's brewery and H P Sauce factory and almost opposite this first house we rented was another factory named Fisk and Davies manufactures of metal fasteners.
They employed quite a number of outworkers and a lot of local mothers would take this work home to complete whilst their children were at school, approximately one farthing (1/4 of a penny old pence) for a pound in weight of completed work was paid, I have it on good authority from a friend of mine named Dorothy whose mother did this work. No one would have made a fortune or even a living but it would I suppose helped to keep the wolf from the door. My father was a soldier prior to being married, from a boy he had joined the Hampshire regiment and served in India for many years. He had aspirations to join the Royal Marines but was just a half inch to short at the time and just could not wait another six months to grow that amount so he joined the army instead, however his brother Jim became a Royal Marine and so did his grandson Laurence in later years.
My father was very athletic and he quickly became their featherweight champion and is noted for his boxing achievements in the annals of the regiment in which he served. After my father was demobbed he began his own dairy business, supplying milk by way of a horse and cart, the horse was kept in Victoria Road at a friends yard. He was quite ambitious and a very hard worker, in the next few years he built up his business up steadily and was supplying eggs as well milk with the idea of introducing potatoes too, having realized that many customers were elderly and would find this service very useful, by this time my sister Patricia was born (1935) and I was born in 1937.
Everything was going really well and my parents were looking to quite rosy future hoping to buy a house in Oxhill Road Handsworth, where new semi's were being built, this was a lovely area at the time with a farm along the one side of Oxhill Road, which we frequented many times later in life as relatives did actually buy at this time but my father was rather concerned because we were drawing towards 1938/39 he having been in the army would be one of the first to be called up and so it happened, as soon as the 2nd World War broke out he got his call up papers. All his plans were dashed, his business had to finish as mother could not possibly keep it going with two little girls to take care of.
Things were never the same again as one time, after a weekend leave my father was driving back to camp when he had an accident and had to spend nearly two years in hospital, he considered him self to lucky not losing his legs but is was a very hard time for him and mother, he could never see himself being fit enough to start his business again or having the money either, later when he came out of hospital he was rehabilitated into civilian life and retrained as a carpenter and joiner, of course whilst he was training the money was very short and also by this time my brother Michael had arrived and following on just 18 months later another brother born named Terence. Quite a family in no time at all but nothing daunted, he took on an allotment and apart from vegetables which helped the family purse he also grew the most marvelous chrysanthemums, carnations and dahlia's
I often helped and guess that's were my love of gardening began, father was still very enterprising, if only in a small way, as he would sell his flowers to neighbours on a regular basis, I would take them round to the specific people and bring the money home, there was always a little tip for me, although I would not have dreamt of asking for anything. There was a great camaraderie in Tower Road if some one was ill neighbours would send a fresh egg to the house to help the person to get better because, after the war, food was scarce, on ration and into the bargain people had very little money, but somehow we all got by stretching the money as far as possible. There was lots of make do and mend going on, rugs were made out of old coats which had been probably handed down through the family, they would be made into the most marvelous patterns imaginable, parachute silk was very sought after especially if someone was getting married and when young ladies were fed up with a sweater they would unpick it and make it in to a new one.
It was quite amazing how enterprising people were in circumstances, and considering people had had very little themselves to get by on, they always seemed helpful to others. I shall always remember Aston with affection and I am glad to say in the last twelve months I have, through the Internet, traced several of my friends from those days namely Dorothy Sheargold, Ruby Latham, Anne Taylor, Joan Reynolds and Jean Penwarden, anyway we keep in touch by e-mail and I have found an extra friend June Moorby who did attend our school in Vicarage Road, Aston but who was in an earlier year.
We all love talking on-line about old Aston even though we all live in various parts of the country now, except for one lady who still just around the corner from were we all went to school
I have recently found your web site about Aston. I was born when my parents lived in Tower Road with my grandparents. I lived there for about the first two years of my life until my parents moved to Erdington. However, I spent many, many days in Tower Road visiting with my grandparents. I was particularly interested in the letter from Eric Stevenson who now lives in Denver, Colorado. In it he mentions remembering a shop kept by a Mrs. Cadell (or Caddell) and her two daughters, Edie and Olive. This really hit home with me as Mrs. Eliza Caddel (correct spelling) was my grandmother, and Edie the elder daughter was my Aunt Edith. The younger daughter Olive was my mother.
My grandmother kept a lock-up shop at 201 Tower Road at a house lived in by Mrs. Wilson, while the Caddel family lived at no. 1 Court 16 (between nos. 180 and 182) Tower Road. Some time prior to 1936, the Caddel family moved to 178 Tower Road and my grandmother relocated her shop there. That is probably where it was when Eric Stevenson remembers it.
My family history revolves around Tower Road. My maternal grandmother, Eliza Ann (Cross) Caddel was born at 242 Tower Road in 1885. My maternal grandfather, James Caddel was born in Park Street, Aston, in 1886. When they were married in 1907 they were both living in Upper Thomas Street. After marriage, they moved to 1 Victoria Place, Tower Road. This is where my mother, Olive Caddel was born in 1913. In 1916, James Caddel joined the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and was sent to France to fight.
He was wounded in the battle of the Somme and was invalided out in 1918. Around 1919 the family moved to no. 1 Court 16, Tower Road. While there, the Inson family lived next door at no. 3 Court 16. It is little wonder that Edie and Olive were friends with the Inson children. Eric Stevenson’s mother Charlotte must have been between their ages, as they were five years apart. I remember my mother often talking about her friend Lottie Inson. My mother died in 2003 at age 90.
My paternal grandparents, George and Annie Male lived at no. 198 Tower Road, and that is where my father, Albert Male was born in 1913. My father and mother were married at Yates Street Chapel in 1936 and immediately went to live with my maternal grandparents at no. 178. This is where they were when I was born in 1937. As I said earlier, we moved to Erdington around 1939. I spent a lot of time at my grandparent’s house and got to know Tower Road well.
Eliza Caddel continued to operate her shop, selling sweets and chocolate, soft drinks, cigarettes and some dry prepackaged groceries until my grandfather James Caddel retired from the HP Sauce factory in 1951, and they subsequently moved to Erdington. Eliza Caddel died in 1963 and James Caddel died in 1967.
Your web page also contains information about the vinegar vat at HP Sauce which burst and flooded several house cellars with vinegar. I remember that incident as I happened to be at my grandmother’s when that occurred. It must have been about 1946-47. The vat was located at the HP “top yard” which was directly across from no. 178 Tower Road. I remember seeing the vinegar running down the street in the road gutter and paddling in it while wearing my rubber “Wellies”. Ah, how we children liked to get our simple pleasures!
The accompanying photograph was taken in Tower Road on 12 May, 1937, Coronation Day of King George VI. The lady front and center is my grandmother Eliza Caddel, with an unknown man. It was taken near the intersection with Upper Thomas Street. The large building in the background is the original HP Sauce factory. The factory is still in existence, but this part of Tower Road is not. It was razed in order to build the Aston Expressway.
I've been looking at your website for preserving the history of Aston and thought you might like to see my Dad's early memories of living in Aston. He was born in Tower Road in 1914 and left when he married in the 1930s, My Dad sadly died last February, just one day short of his 99th birthday. He was a wonderful man and had such a good memory. He wrote his memories for me and my sister, they continue through his life but I'm sending you a pdf of his early years which were in Aston. Dad always had the nickname of Boz though was not sure why. My sister and I thought it would be nice if others could read his early memories so would be happy if they could be included in your website in any way. We would love to think he was somewhere where he would never be forgotten.
Read these memories here >>