The initial project started back in 1997 by Walter Hughes, Kevin and Julie Powis, Mike and Steve Hill and Jill Guest. It was seen as "a year long project to boost the profile of Cradley and to promote and protect Cradley's heritage."
Since then the group has gone from strength to strength. It now has over 200 people on its mailing list, throughout the British Isles and abroad, with an average attendance of over 50 at monthly meetings. Meetings were held originally at Cradley Branch Library in Colley Lane, but as the numbers grew the venue was moved in December 2000 to Park Lane Unitarian Church Hall, which has been our home ever since.
In November 2007 Cradley Then and Now celebrated its 10th birthday.
Black Country Crafts
The Hall was also home to the Craft class which started in July 2000 to help keep alive old Black Country Crafts, including Rug Podging, knitting, corking, crocheting and peg doll making. This group no longer meets on a regular basis but some of its members go into Colley Lane primary school on Wednesday lunchtimes to run a craft class for the children, teaching Rug podging, Knitting, sewing, corking and crocheting.
The meetings are now held monthly, with no meeting in January, and include a wide variety of speakers on many topics. All meetings are held at PARK LANE UNITARIAN HALL, Netherend, Cradley on the second Monday in the month, starting at 7.30 pm unless otherwise advertised. There is an admission charge of £1; refreshments included. Please see the online Diary for our programme of speakers for this year.
Cradley Day is held every two years on the first Saturday in October. The venue for that changes and has so far included, Cradley High School, Cradley Community Centre, Colley Lane Primary school (for its centenary celebrations), Providence Methodist Church, and last October, High Town Ragged School. These are always popular events, with various displays and competitions, including the best bread pudding, photographs and poetry.
Cradley Then and Now has also published or helped to promote various books, including The Then and Now heritage trail, the Vicar's Notebooks, and the History of Park Lane with the War Diaries. (For details of the availability of these and all the other books about the area please look at our bookshop page.)
Other events have included day trips to local National Trust sites and a hop picking trip, attendance at Local History fairs, and help with family trees, Fish and Chip suppers, Raffles, visits to local churches, assisting with the naming of new roads in the locality, and preserving old pictures, memories and crafts.
Our committee now includes two Presidents, Kevin Powis and Irving Billingham, Chairman Muriel Bennett, Secretary Bev Walton, Treasurer Jill Guest and committee members, Enid Billingham, June Farmer, Julia Billingham and Brian Knowles.
The committee is always looking for new ideas for speakers and events and welcomes comments.