Canal Cottage. Parkhead Locks, Dudley...........History.
Since living here I've collected all the history and old photo's of this cottage which I found very interesting to do.
Photo taken in 1910. The Sadler family standing outside the lock keepers cottage.
I was given this wonderful photo off Harry Yardley who I met purly by accident whilst waiting in Dudley Guest Hostpital for my Wife Gill to have some test's done. Harry was sat next to me in the waiting room, we struck up a conversation and the subect of canals came up (as it does!) Well it turned out that his Great Great Grandad worked on the canal at Parkhead as a Toll Collector. His name was Henry Sadler, that's him standing in the photo in front of toll office with the grey bushy beard and the bowler hat. The chap standing next to the lock gate in a Railway Uniform, I think is Henry's son James Henry Sadler. The two children to his right (I think) is Henry Sadler's Grand children plus the other Grand child is on Henry Sadlers right as well. The woman to his left with her arm on her hip is Phoebe Danks (Henrys elder daughter) next to Phoebe is Hannah Yardley
(Henry's younger daughter) and in front of Hannah is her little boy Elon Yardley, who was Harry Yardley's Father. Elon was around 3 1/2 years old when this photo was taken,
and finding his birth certificate I was able to deduce the year of this photo Circa 1910. With help from Dr Ian Langford (our Histotian).
The Cottage was built in 1891 along with the attached Toll Office, the Cottage would have been 19 years old then.
Henry's Wife (Hannah) had died early on in 1910, this photo was taken shortly after that. Henry died in 1911 at the age of 77. The Yardley family carried on living in the cottage for a few more years to come. Just as a added observation there is NO BCN NUMBER Fitted on the front wall (156) YET !
A plan map of the community in 1929 that Top Elwell drew for me a few years ago.
In 2002 I was sat on the lock beam having a cup of tea when when two men came up to me asking about Parkhead locks in general. It turned out that the person I was talking to had lived in a cottage at Parkhead many years ago ! His name was Tom Elwell, he had bought his son along to show him exactly where he lived. The Cottage where Tom Elwell lived was on the off side of the canal next to the middle lock right by the Viaduct. The Cottage was demolished sometime in 1937. Tom is now 82 and had been an architect most of his working life It was Winter time and the weeds had gone down low enough to see some of the foundation brickwork still there in places. Tom told me many storys about all the happenings that went on around here at the time he lived at Parkhead, even relating the story of when his Father died. They (his Mother and Tom) found his dad face down and drowned in the middle lock after a all night boozing session in the Raillway Pub during the Winter months of 1930.
He and his Mother moved away soon after this disaster. The Cottage was boaded up and later demolished in 1937.
And I'm very greatfull to Tom for drawing this plan drawing of Parkhead locks as he remembered it in 1929.
In the next few years the Yardley family moved out of the cottage due to many memories. The next family to move in were the Beasley's. You can clearly see them on the 1929 map. Mr Beasley worked for the Birmingham Canal Navigation Company as a Toll Collector (Like Henry Sadler) who worked in the Toll Office next door. Mr Beasley and his Wife had a son, he was called Eric Beasley, he also worked for the BCN Co as a lock keeper.
Again I'm not sure of the exact dates but after quite a few years the Beasley family moved out and a family called the Kings moved in.
In 1993 I was in the middle of restoring the cottage and having a tea break sat on the lock beam outside when I was aproached by an elderly gentelman in his late 60's. He ask me about the lock cottage and who was living there now ? I said I was in the middle of restoring the cottage and that I took the place over in 1992 in a deralict state. He then told me that he used to live here and could he show his daughter who was with him at the time around the cottage, So I invited them in, apologising that it was looking like a bomb site at the moment ! he had a quick look around, he showed me which bedroom was his (the one above the kitchen) and told me of a tale of when he and his sister went to sleep in the same room, On occasions they would be woken up by the noise out front which was always around 1am in the morning. It was the Blowing Engine opposite thumping away, pumping vast quanty's of air under Peartree Lane and into the Blast Furnases of Grazebrooks Foundary. He said it looked like the 4th of July with magnisumn sparks flying and a red glow all around the factory. As we came downstairs and put his head into the lounge area saying " I had my clockwork train set on a big table in here" because my parents would rather stay in the kitchen area most of the time. The only time the lounge was used was on special occasions like Christmas. Mr King then said to me that we had no choice but to leave the cottage after a fatal accident when his sister fell into the lock chamber out front and drowned ! Mr King was 9 years old then. They left sometime around 1938. The Cottage was boaded up again.
The Blowing Engine House, Inside was the the Beam Engine that would blow air under Peartree Lane into the Blast Furnaces of Grazebrooks
Photo taken in 1934. British Waterways rebuilding the lock chamber on Blowersgreen Lock.
The Cottage was boarded up by British Waterway's for a while. Until in 1939 War broke out. Ted Booth and his Mother lived in the end cottage by the Viaduct until one dark night they were woken up by a loud explostion ! The German Luftwaffe tried to Bomb
the Viaduct, and missed ! The bomb landed in Ted's back garden and exploded which managed to blow all the window's out of his cottage and damaged the gable end.
The house was unlivable. British Waterways took pitty on them and move both Ted and his mother into the Lock Keepers Cottage.
Ted Booth sat on a lock beam outside his Cottage........Circa 1980's
So Ted and his Mother moved into the Lock Keepers Cottage in 1939. Ted never worked for the B.C.N.Co He worked just over the road at Grazebrooks. Some years later Ted's Mother died, so he lived on his own in the cottage for the rest of his life, devoting most of his time to working on his garden which he turned into an allotment, also keeping many chicken's,goats,dog's and cat's around the place. Ted retired from Grazebrooks sometime in the early 1980's. You would often see Ted going up Peartree Lane to the supermarket with his wheelbarrow to get the weekly shopping. Ted died in bed in the cottage suffering from a heart attack whilst in his sleep in July 1992.
British Waterways boarded the cottage up again and was left standing for some months before we came along.
Arial photo taken in 1946 of Grazebrooks dismantling the blast furnaces. You can see the Lock Cottage towards the bottom middle of the photo.
This 1946 photo was found by Ron Moss in a skip when Grazebrooks shut down. It's an interesting photo because you can clearly see to the left the Grazebook Canal arm that went under Peartree Lane and into a terminal basin (which is out of water now) Just over the road from the now dismanteled blast furnaces is the tall blue brick building that housed the Blowing Engine. Towards the middle of the photo you can see Blowersgreen Pumphouse and the Cottages next to it. At the bottom is the Pensnet canal arm that termintated at the Wallows in Brierley Hill. If you look closley you will see a working boat full of coal moored up on the towpath outside Mullet's cottage. Luther Mullet owned his own Transport Business and when things were slow he would offer his sevices to leg boats through the 1 3/4 mile Dudley Tunnel. Luther did this with a false leg as well !
The Grazebrooks Blowing Engine on a Traffic Island in Aston, Birmingham
This Blowing Engine was removed in 1964, when Birmingham City Council were looking to put unusal things depicting the Black Country's Industry on their Traffic Islands in Birmingham. The Grazebrook Blowing Engine ended up on a Roundabout in Aston, Where you can still see it today. It's been there for around 50 years now and I think it's time it was bought back and put somewhere around the Peartree Lane area, possibly on the Traffic Island at the end of Peartree Lane where Blowersgreen Road finishes ? I say this because there are references to this famous Blowing Engine all over this area, like..
Blowersgreen Road, Blowersgreen School, Blowersgreen Pumphouse and Blowergreen
Bridge and Lock.
This Photo was taken at Easter 1957 of the Lock Keepers Cottage.
This is a Newspaper cutting that I came across some time ago of the early 1960's
In the early 1960's there was a definate movement to close the canal and fill it all in !
The Paddle gear on the locks were all deliberately smashed, lock beams cut off and vehicles dropped into the bottom of the lock chambers !
In 1962 the Dudley Tunnel Presivation Society was formed to save Dudley Tunnel from
deraliction. Which they suceeded, the Sociey then changed it's name to the shorter Dudley Canal Trust. After the Trust saved Dudley Tunnel they broke out into the top basin of Parkhead Locks and proceded to restore the locks and the pounds ect. This was completed in 1973 after the Great Dudley Dig.
This is the view of the top lock at Parkhead complete with a Thames van in the bottom !
This is a veiw of lock 3 (Outside the Lock Cottage) Notice the balance beam has been sawn off !
Volunteers digging out the silt from the pound by the Lock Cottage. 1970.
Boat's moored up at Blowersgreen Junction to attend the Dudley Dig.
Another veiw of the boats that were crammed into Blowersgreen Junction , 1970
Volunteers getting a helping hand to get the detritous out of the pound outside the Lock Cottage. 1970.
British Waterway Maintainace men fitting new Lock Gates on Lock 3 outside the Lock Cottage.
In 1973 Dudley Canal Trust opened up 1 3/4 mile Dudley Tunnel for the first time.
Electra disapears into the depths of Dudley Tunnel.
Sometime during the 1980's Paviors were being laid down on the towpath by British Waterways.
October 1992. Steve and Gill Bingham take over the Lock Cottage in a derelict state.
Ted Died in July of 1992. The R.S.P.C.A. Went in and rouded up around 157 animals that were in pen's around the back of the property. The cottage was boarded up and left empty. The kids did manage to find a way in and completly ransacked the place, pulling floorboards up etc looking for any hidden pot's of Gold ! In October 1992 Gill and myself took over the Lock Cottage at Parkhead. It was in a very sorry state. It was also noticed that the cottage leaned backwards slightly due to subcidence in the area. With permission from British Waterways we were able to gain accsess into the cottage via the front door.
There was a very strong smell of damp inside, the wallpaper was peeling off everywhere. The lounge floor was that rotten you could easly put your foot through it. as we went upstairs we could see holes in the ceilings where someone had been in the loft at some stage and put there foot through! The place was in a right mess!
Outside around the back was an old out building which was also leaning back at a steeper angle than the cottage and had a lot of loose brickwork. There were a lot of old rotted sheds and chicken coop's lieing around. The fences were also broken down and rotted away. The only service's to the cottage were electicity and water. There was no sewerage system at all ! Ted used a Chemical loo bucket that we found in the out building around the back as his toilet ! This must have been one of the only houses left in the Dudley Borough that has NO toilet fitted ! Ted never had any hot water facilities other than boiling a kettle. The only sink in the place was an old stone butler type sink with one cold water tap over it. Well at the time I thought I must be mad to take this over, but on the plus side we had no neighbours to worry about and would be ideal for the dogs.
Looking from the rear garden of the property. October 1992.
After crowbaring the plywood sheeting off the front door we gained access into the cottage. (with permission from British Waterways)
Very damp inside and a rotted wooden floor in the lounge area.
The veiw from the back door looking into the kitchen area.
The kitchen. Note to the right of the photo was were the doorway was to the Toll Office (now bricked up )
Bedroom 2 Notice the wallpaper peeling off the very damp walls (This is the one Ted slept in)
Started by fitting mesh cages to the windows and steel doors front and back to protect the property (BCN Cottage No 156)
After doing the deal with British Waterways I started as soon as possible on the cottage.
My first job was to make the place more secure and to let more light into the cottage.
I did this by fixing up mesh panals and bolting up steel front and back doors with secure pad locks. Just to keep things more secure I bought an old cheap caravan to sleep in at nights.
I bought a cheap old caravan to sleep in overnight just to keep security on the site.
One of the first job's I did was to fetch all the plaster off the wall's upstair's and down stairs. Then removed all the wrecked ceilings down. This was a real dirty dusty job and I had many breaks in the fresh air but rather than do nothing I would start to gather up all the rat infested chicken sheds around the garden and burnt them.
Upstairs in bedroom 1. I fetched the damaged ceilings down and the damp plaster off the walls.
Started clearing all the rat infested chicken sheds.
Then having cleared all the mess up by the barrow full I set about diging the whole of the kitchen floor out down 8". The idea was to put a polytheene membrain sheet in the bottom of the floor, then 1" thick sheets of polystyrene to insulate the floor. 6" of concrete was poored in through the kitchen windows, it was lucky having a concrete buseness next door ! A few days later on we laid the red quarry tiles back on top of the concrete so to put back some of the origanality back into the cottage. A liquid damp course was also put in all around the cottage.
In the kitchen, I removed the quarry tiles to dig down 8" and put a dampcourse membrain down plus a 1" polystyrene sheeting to insulate the floor, 6" of Concreate and the red quarry tiles on the top.
Top photo is the new sewer pumping station. Bottom photo is the pipework and manholes to link it all up to the cottage.
After all the damp coursing was completed a sewer system had to be thought of and fitted. After the delivery of a very large fiberglass tank I started digging a very large hole out the back, close to the cottage. The hole had to be 10ft deep and 5ft square through solid clay ! I remember this taking me about 2 day's to do on my own. I fitted the tank in the ground, then poured in 2 ton's of ready mix concrete around the outside to hold the tank in place. After waiting a few days for the concrete to go off I went down inside the tank to fit out the electric pump that would grind up all the soild's and pump down a 2" flexible plastic pipe. The 2" pipe was to be buried down the towpath later on. I started trenching out around the back to fit all of the 4" sewer pipe and manholes, eventually I connecting it all into the fiberglass tank. By now 5 months had passed by, I was doing most of this on my own, working during the day at F.C.Brown in Lye, and working on the cottage every night and weekends. Things were getting on top of me and needed to move this job on faster so I got a self-employed builder in to work on the cottage whilst I was at work during the day but still working on the cottage at night and weekends to keep pushing the job on. In the meantime I got an electricion (Tony) to come in and completely re-wire the cottage whilst there was no plaster on the walls and no floors or ceilings to worry about. My builder (Darrell) plumbed all the central heating pipes in place. The ceilings were all fitted and skimmed. Plus the floors replaced. I remember buying 85 bags of plaster For Darrell to start plastering all the walls upstairs and down. It was begining to look like a house now. In the meantime I built some temprory kennels to house the dogs. I had kitchen units fitted with a working cooker and a working fridge. Gill and myself moved into the cottage at Whitson bank holliday weekend 1993 the walls were bare and no carpets anywhere but everything else worked okay.
We sat on secondhand furniture to put our feet up.
Connected up the first working toilet.......Downstairs.
Starting moving the dogs in for more security.
March 1993. I bought an old 1960 J.C.B. to help me.
I had been looking for something to help with me with digging the ground out. A mate of mine called Vic Narbouragh said that he had an old J.C.B. lieing ideal up the corner of his farm in Arley. It did not run very well as it had not been started or used for some years, It was going very cheap, so I bought it off him and decieded to sort it out myself. Vic delivered the J.C.B. to me on the back of his lowloader. As I was not brave enough, Vic drove it down the towpath for me and parked around the back, well away from the cottage. Well you see, I had never driven a J.C.B. in my life, so this was going to be a new experence for me. It took me a few days to pluck up enough courage to start it up and start using it ! All I did for 2 days was just dig holes in the back garden and fill them back in again, just to get used to it.
With permission off British Waterways we dug up the towpath to fit a very large concrete manhole for the 2" plastic pipe to go into.
And there it is, with it's first ring concreted in place.
Mark had driven a J.C.B. in the past before, so he was an ideal candidate to drive the machine down the towpath and start digging a big hole at the end of the towpath to put this large concrete manhole in place for the sewerage pipe to go into. Then after back filling the manhole, a trench was dug back to the next manhole in the towpath where a duct had been buried in the towpath by British Wateway's when they paved the towpath. So this 2" plastic sewer pipe was pushed through the duct and out of the first manhole then the rest of the pipe was laid in the bottom of the trench that had been dug out, the pipe was cemented into this larger concrete manhole at the end of the towpath. Later on the Council came and connected their pipework into it.