Barry Blunt examines an article from the October 26th, 1918 edition of the County Express which featured a poem about “Cradley Bag-Puddings” from a book published in 1853
The 1853 book, by one Francis Perks of Stourbridge, was called “A Selection of Poetry”. One of the poems was entitled “Cradley Bag-Puddings.”
Apparently Cradley people were inclined to use a new stocking in which to boil their puddings, and bag-puddings became a common term to describe anyone living in Cradley.
The poem, with its excruciating scansion and rhyme, gave me a good laugh; but it also raises some interesting questions. Can anyone throw any light on the following? -
Who was the “man of science at least 50 years ahead of his time”?
Who was “maggoty Cox”?
Who was “Darby”, and why was he hanged?
What was the “convulsion that destroyed religion and commerce”?
Any thoughts on the above from readers of Cradley Links will be added to this page.
Some 60 Years Old Verse.
(“County Express” Special)
Quite accidentally a short time ago there came into my possession a little brochure, which contained interesting local associations. It was entitled “A selection of poetry,” by the late Mr. Francis Perks, Stourbridge, and the imprint was “Birmingham; printed by Henry Devonshire, Dale End, 1853.” In it are lines describing the “Beauties of Lye-Waste.” These deal with the people, their trade and habits, and not with the sylvan surroundings - and there are still a few charming spots in the locality, whatever the sceptical may say. Another effusion recounts the “Titles and characters of the Lye-Waste”: a humorous skit on the nicknames by which certain persons and families were known; indeed there are quite a number of nicknames even now in use though 65 years have passed since they were bought to public notice by the issue of this little pamphlet. There are also a number of verses under the title of “Kinver and the Iron Trade;” these tell how the iron trade and cloth trade used to flourish there, and how that
“They traversed foreign climes their commerce to secure,
And risked their lives and fortunes, and great perils did endure;
As mendicant musicians through Germany they strayed,
And begged shelter in their ironworks, being much in distress, they said.”
This evidently has reference to the adventure of the Foley who, disguised as a fiddler, gained access to the works to discover the secret of the slitting mills. What most aroused my interest was the title with which I have headed this article, “Cradley Bag-Puddings.” I have been to some little trouble to unravel the meaning. I could make nothing whatever of bag-puddings, had never heard them alluded to in so much as a syllable which could connect “bag-puddings” with anything which at present exists or had existed for the past 25 or 30 years, during which time I have been fairly closely connected with the district. I then had recourse to the “oldest inhabitants” and had no difficulty in finding out what was meant by “bag-puddings.” The origin shortly is that the Cradley people were said to use a new stocking in which to boil their puddings. Whether that actually occurred or not is almost past proof, but that “bag pudding” was quite a common expression, almost as much as “roly-poly pudding,” was in my younger days, is quite certain and the information I gleaned would seem to indicate that that was the kind of pudding which was boiled in the stockings. It must be recalled that 40 years ago, and before that time especially, the stockings worn were more frequently of calico texture than they are to-day, which suggests that they would be quite an easy and safe receptacle for the constituents of a roly-poly or any other pudding of a similar character. It will be noticed that in the lines no reference is made to the meaning of “bag-puddings,” the hyphenated word apparently being used as the common denominator of the people of the Cradley district. It will be seen, also that the names of Scott and Evers are mentioned, the former, without doubt, being the founder (or at any rate a supporter) of the Unitarian Church, perpetuated as Park Lane Church, Netherend; while the name of Evers, of course, was and is, associated with the mining and brick industries. The last verse was evidently prompted by the strong body of Nonconformity in the parish. At the present time there are no fewer than seven places of worship associated with the Free Churches. The present parish church was formerly a Countess of Huntington's Meeting House, and until the present Vicarage was built, the incumbent of the parish lived at Chapel House. It is easy to infer that the last lines of the composition refer to the religious communities then so strongly represented in the parish, whose devotional utterances were of the perfervid order which Black Country Free Churchmen can well remember. Here are the lines -
Of Cradley Bag-puddings say what you will
Ages back they rank'd high, and so they do still.
As a proof that they're now, no despicable things,
There reside in their township both Bishops and Kings.
These Bag-puddings brave, they were heroes of old
And when called on to war, they were valiant and bold,
For victories they gained and ages back you may trace
How Lord Ormand (sic) bequeathed unto them Pensnett Chase.
The Chase for some centuries the Bag-puddings held
And to know or feel want, they were never compell'd:
Till the Lord of the Manor turned treach'rous and base,
And got pass'd an Act to enclose Pensnett Chase.
They have eminent men in religion and laws,
Which has often been prov'd when engag'd in a cause.
As limbs of the Law few men higher stood,
Than Barrister Harris and Counsellor Wood.
When engaged in a cause great hopes they held out
As for gaining their point there was not the least doubt.
They spurr'd on their client, while his money did last,
When his pockets were empty, the case was soon quash'd.
They have men of great science, great things to discover,
Their mechanical fame spreads the country over.
One genius, he built a nice car it would seem
To travel by land, without horses or steam.
And not only that, but much stranger things,
To fly in the air, he made a large pair of wings.
But in trying to rise, his wings not being hung well,
'Stead of flying towards heaven, he dropt on a dung-hill.
They'd another bright genius called maggoty Cox,
He was Mayor of the Town, and guard of the stocks.
As the head of processions he always did walk,
And his mace was composed of a large cabbage stalk.
He was always admired for the sake of his clothes,
His coat buttons were chestnuts, in beautiful rows,
And amongst curiosities he used to exhibit,
The Darby's collar bones, which he stole from the Gibbet.
His own coffin he made of a choice piece of wood,
Which served for his cupboard, where he kept his food,
He said he was grateful for the blessings he shared,
And for life or for death he was always prepared.
His generous neighbours his cupboard supplied,
And his coffin was ready whenever he died.
This happy old mortal would often declare
That living or dying he was void of all care.
Years back great convulsions their township befell
Which destroyed their religion, and commerce as well,
But both are restored by friends and endeavours,
Their religion by Scott and their commerce by Evers.
They're the happiest people that on the earth dwell,
Altho' they reside near the products of hell,
For in purity they all that's good so resemble
The sight of Bag-puddings makes Old Nick tremble.
Cradley Links wishes to thank Barry Blunt for his
generosity in providing this article from his researches
in the archives of The County Express.
Scans from the microfilms of the County Express were
supplied by Jill Guest.