Cradleylinks was contacted by a gentleman from Stourbridge, to see if we would be interested in a Sunday school union medal, together with a Methodist Hymn book and Bible which was a prize from the Cradley Heath and district Sunday school Union Scripture examination 1948 awarded to Nellie Lowe, which was also the name on the medal. He had been helping to clear the house of a neighbour who had passed away, the name on the medal and prize was the maiden name of the wife of the neighbour.
As I also had a medal from the Cradley Heath and district Sunday school union for a later date I agreed to have the medal and books. I was given a bit more information about Nellie Lowe and about a cut glass vase which had also been in the house and had since been given to the Stourbridge glass museum. The vase was engraved with the words “presented to Harold Lowe for 25 years service at Cradley Castings.”
On contacting Bev Pegg from Cradley Casting he remembered not only Harold Lowe but also his daughter Nellie. He provided more information about the Lowe family, Harold had worked for Cradley Castings since 1946 retiring in 1970, he was also the caretaker at the factory which he continued to do until shortly before his death in 1991.
The family lived at 33 Mill Street Cradley, in the 1911 census Harolds parents Arthur and Emma Lowe are listed together with 3 sons and a daughter, Harold was 6 years old. Cradley Castings gradually took over Mill Street demolishing the old cottages, but Harold’s father Arthur refused to leave even when offered a new bungalow at the top of Cradley High Street.
He said he would only leave when they carried him out in a box. He had lived most of his life in Mill Street and the company allowed him to stay there until he passed away. Below is a page from Cradley Castings Ltd, Through the years, a 75 years scrapbook of Manufacturing in Cradley 1921-1996 compiled by Bev Pegg showing pictures of Albert Lowe and his story which appeared in the Sunday Mercury and Express and Star in 1963.
Albert’s wife had passed away some years before in 1943 and Albert died in 1965, still living in Mill Street. They are buried in St Peters churchyard.
Harold Lowe married Mary Tromans in 1937, his brother married Mary’s sister Sarah. Because Harold was caretaker he and Mary lived at the Bridge Inn, offices of Cradley Castings before moving to 68 Lyde Green, one of a row of houses just past Cradley Castings also owned by the firm.
Nellie was their only child, marrying John J Steadman in 1970 and moving to Stourbridge, passing away in 2019 aged 81.
I was now interested to know which of the Methodist Churches in Cradley Nellie had attended when she received the medal and prize. The nearest church would have been Trinity on the corner of Lyde Green and the old Cradley High Street, but she was not remembered as being a scholar there. Further up the old High Street had been Bethesda Primative Methodist Church.
While speaking to Marion Dunn from High Town Ragged school in Mapletree Lane I mentioned Nellie Lowe, she remembered Nellie Lowe had sat behind her at school and had attened Bethesda Church.
The medal was dated 1959, Teachers 11 marks 91.
Now a few words about the Cradley Heath and district Sunday School union.
The Cradley Heath and District Sunday School Union
Through the perseverance of the late Mr George Yardley and a few others the Cradley Heath and District Sunday School Union was started, in 1869, with Noah Hingley its first chairman, there were 10 local Sunday Schools at the beginning with others joining later. Noah Hingley was its first Chairman; Sunday Schools came from all denominations, Wesleyan, Primitive and New Connection Methodists, Baptists and High Town and Two Gates Ragged Schools.
Visitors from the Union were appointed to visit each school, but its main role was organising the Annual Scripture Examination, which took place in March every year. The children were graded into divisions according to age, Lower Junior, (7-8 years), Upper Junior (9-10 years), Lower Middle (11-12 years), Upper Middle (13-14 years), Lower Senior (15-16 years), Upper Senior (17-18 years)
In January handbooks from the Union were obtained for all the children taking part, the exams were held in Cradley Heath at Lomey Town Schools and later at the Witley Memorial Sunday School and Mace Street schools Old Hill.
On the first Monday in May the prize giving was held, in the early years a tea was provided for the children, before the results were announced, which took quite a while because of the number of children involved. Each child received a book; the child with the highest marks in each division also received a medal.
The Sunday School with the most marks received the Woodhouse Shield, with the runners-up receiving the Shaw cup. Because the numbers of children in each Sunday School varied greatly and to give the smaller Sunday Schools a chance of winning the shield a system was devised by which the marks were divided first by the number of scholars who sat the exam then by the number eligible to enter, then the two were added together.
According to the County Express, ‘On Monday 2nd August 1880 the Schools belonging to the Cradley Heath Sunday School Union met with the Quarry bank Sunday Schools in a field near Cradley Station to celebrate the centenary of the Sunday School movement. It was reported that 6500 people took part. After marching up Lomey Town and Cradley Heath High Street to Four Ways the procession divided into three, with the Cradley Sunday Schools marching down Corngreaves Road, through the industrial estate into Overend, where they filed off to their respective schools.
At the Annual meeting of the Sunday School teachers of the Union held at the Wesleyan school room in June 1888, it was reported that the 11 schools in the Union had a total of 369 teachers. However, the average attendance was 215 in the morning and 281 in the afternoon, which meant that 40% were absent from their class each week. At the Scripture exam held in March that year the subject was ‘Christ and the young’ 84 sat the exam 50 passed.
In 1894 the secretary reported that ’20 years ago they had quite enough to do to muster 8 or 10 children for the examination, but now 150 had entered of whom 130 passed.
Back row from the left, Diane Davies, Isobel Worrell, Wendy Corbett, Mr Jack Wood(Sunday school superintendent) Roger Wood, Daryl Taylor (teacher) Jill Corbett(teacher) Marlene Heath. Front row, ? Lynne Wood , Susan Davies and Margaret Heath. We were only a small Sunday school, and as you can see from the names, several of us were related, but we were very proud to win the shield for Belle Vale.
In 1967 Jill Corbett received the A Harrison JP Memorial medal being placed 10th in the National Competition.
Two Gates Ragged School, Cradley won the Woodhouse Challenge shield in 1936 and 1967, coming second in 1988 and were given the Shaw silver cup The Sunday School Union ceased to exist that year so the silver cup remains at Two Gates Ragged school.
The exam was held in March and the Prizegiving was held on the first Monday evening in May. Jack Evans was examination secretary for many years.
High Town Ragged School won the Woodhouse Shield in 1961, the chidren were trained by Marion Askins and Jack Dunn who were married the same year. Sydney Jones trained the children for the next few years helped by Mary Walker. The Woodhouse Sheild was won again in 1975, High Town Ragged school won the shield every year after that until 1987.
The Last Scripture exam was held in 1988 when Dudley Wood Methodists won the Woodhouse Shield for the last time.
Jill Guest December 2022