Margaret's Memories

Below are my memories of Handsworth.

In this photo is of course me, in the back ground is my aunty Winnie dads sister, in Church Terrace.

I was born at 14 Church Terrace, Holyhead Road, Handsworth. My sister Lily was waiting on the staircase for my arrival at 4.30am, when she heard the midwife cry “Someone fetch the doctor” on the 5th May 1952. I arrived with the cord around my neck! Lily ran to Dr Sperways house. By the time he arrived the midwife and my mother had kept me alive.

My parents were Frank and Margaret Taylor. My dad Frank was born in Dudley, but it was my grandad, also named Frank who brought his young family to Handsworth in 1910. He had applied for the position of steam roller driver with Handsworth council. They first lived in Douglas Road, but later moved to 12 Church Terrace. Grandad was also in the Handsworth Fire Brigade. He was a keen footballer and won a lot of medals. He always wore his bowler hat and gold watch and chain when he went to the pub. He would go to the new inns public House on Holyhead Road.

As a child I always remember a procession of horses and carriages with ladies dressed in old Victorian clothing making their way to the New Inns. I asked my dad why this was happening and he said “Because in olden days the coaches would come from London and stop at the pub for a rest”.

As a child I always played in the terrace, and I would ride my three-wheeler up and down the footpath. Sometimes I would play with Jane Powell. She lived at the bottom of the terrace at the cafe on Holyhead Road. Mr Powell (Jane's Grandad) with his wife and daughters ran the café; it always smelt nice there from the food they were cooking.

I remember there was a gas mantle in the terrace, which a man would light every evening, but later it was changed to electric. There were 15 houses altogether, and I can still remember their names, there was Mrs Hawkins, Mrs Mountford, Mr and Mrs Dunn and their son Johnny, Mrs Mckewin and her dog Jip, and he would always sit with me on the step and we became very good friends, and Mr and Mrs crump and their daughter. I remember my brother Beric breaking their window and my dad taking him to their house to say sorry! Next door to us was Pat and she used to give me empty scent bottles. Beric was always getting into trouble. (He wasn’t born at the terrace as he was breach and was born four years earlier than me).

He was always climbing trees and digging holes which he covered in anything he could find to make a roof, this was to become the den for him and his friends, and dad also put a stop to that. Lily was married in 1953 just a year after I was born and went to live in Tew Park Road in Handsworth. Joan my other sister was next to leave and she lived with us for a little while and she had the front room, and then moved to Bearwood in Smethwick and she still lives there, but Lily left and moved to Shropshire. In 1960, Frankie my eldest brother married and left to live in south road and later on to Kingstanding.

When I was 5, I went to St James C of E school in Brewley Street, and it was a lovely old school where my dad also was taught, and I was a bit sad when I heard it was being knocked down and I wish now that I had took photos! There were two playgrounds, a small one at the front gates and the large one at the back. The headmaster was Mr Kirkham and I remember Mrs Smith who had the classroom by the hall which had folding doors that could open onto the hall.  Mrs James had the next classroom which had a side entrance. Through the hall was the classrooms for the older children and an entrance where they kept their coats. There was also a washroom and the kitchens. There was Mr Roe, Mr Veryer and Miss Rathbone’s classes, and Miss Rathbone’s class joined onto Mr Roe’s class via a small room used as a library.  Miss Rathbone later on married Mr Veryer and Mr Roe retired just before I left. The toilets were outside and in the winter it was very cold, and at playtime. Mr Veryer used to make us all hold hands and swing us around until the one at the end fell off! It was good fun!

I used to home for lunch because it was just around the corner, but if I was late going back I would go into the alley at the back of our house and climb over the wall into the next alley which took me into Brewley Street and back to school. Sometimes I went to my friend’s house in Payton Road.

On Saturday Mornings we would go to the regal cinema and go to the ABC club and sing a song before the film started. I would often go down Soho Road with mom to go to shopping, we would go to Woolworths and I loved the counter with the scent bottles. There seemed to be lots of them all sizes and shapes and the signs were 1/6d or 2/6d. We used to go to another shop and I think it was Littlewoods and my mom would buy me a toy then we would cross the road to another shop that sold shirts and collars and all sorts of things, and they would wrap your buys in brown paper and string and put your money into a long cylinder and send it around on a track then it would come back with your change and receipt. After that we would go the market, which I think was a old cinema. This place always fascinated me as at the back there was a second hand area where you could buy things like a old candle, telephones to old electrical items, like TV valves, and dad always used to buy things to make crystal sets; I loved this place.

Nearer to home we used to go to the shops on the front. There was a pet shop on the corner where mom would go for a gossip and my brother made me eat dog biscuits (yuk). On the other corner was the green grocers and the fish and chip shop, newsagents, grocers where there was a chair to sit on and all the biscuits were in tin boxes on show, and the iron mongers. On a Sunday dad would bring us ice-cream form the shops opposite the New Inn. There was a hair dressers that did my hair when I was a bridesmaid at my brother Frankie's wedding! Dad always went to the New Inns with grandad and Uncle Vic.

About the photo, Looking at the photo, top left is Long George , Danny Aikman, Mr Insol, Frank Barns ,bottom right grandad,the next two I do not know, Mr white and Mr Low. In the photo, grandad holding his pipe, and wearing his watch + chain, and his bowler hat.

Dad also worked for the corporation but by then it was Birmingham, and he was a lorry driver but would work on the sewers and was once asked to find a weapon by the police. Dad was too old to go in the army during the Second World War, but he did everything he could to protect the public. He should have gone to Coventry the night it got bombed but his mate asked him to change nights with him, his mate got killed that night and dad never forgot. He helped dig around unexploded bombs and later would take us to a site where one dropped by the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

Dad’s first wife died when she was 30 and dad was left to look after Lily, Joan and Frankie. He then met my mother at a cinema where she worked in Oldbury. They married in 1945 and mom had a readymade family. We lived in Church Terrace until I was 14 then we went to live in Kingstanding, but mom and dad missed Handsworth so much they came back to live here by Handsworth Cemetery near Oxhill Road. It was from there that I got married aged 19 at St James Church, Crocketts Road on June 19th 1971. I, then left Handsworth to live in Quinton, Warley where my husband lived. I now live In Pershore, Worcestershire and in a way I followed my roots right back to where we started in the 1800’s in the heart of Worcester itself.

Sadly mom died in 1978 and Dad left Handsworth, not long after the first riots started, to live in a bungalow in Redditch, but died not long after aged 82, both my parents and family are all buried in Handsworth Cemetery.

Margaret Green