"Memories of Park Lane, Cradley in the 1950s" by Michael Raybould
Michael Raybould first contacted Cradley Links to say that he was interested in Howard Hill's Memoirs of a Black Country Mining Engineer. He had met Howard in the 1980s and wondered if his collection of steam engines still existed and where they are, so that he might photograph them. Michael is also researching the Joseph King Chapel works and King Bros Firebrick works and would be grateful for any information.
My first thought was that this might be the Michael Raybould that I had known when we were children together in Cradley in the 1950s and 1960s. It turned out that he was not this friend but that he had lived about eight houses up from him in Park Lane, Cradley. So the two Michael Rayboulds lived just a few doors from each other.
Out of this correspondence has come Michael's memories of Park Lane in the 1950s, and we are pleased to publish them here.
I Michael Raybould lived at No 56 Park Lane, opposite Park Lane Tavern. From my bedroom window I could see the rear of Harper & Moore's Fire Brickworks and to the right, I could see Kings Bros. Fire Brickworks.
Park Lane and District
We will now begin a tour of Park Lane and surrounding district. By the side of Park Lane Tavern are King's Drying Sheds with the Chimneys and Firing Grates, which were in a trench at the front of Park Lane. There was a track between the Tavern and the drying sheds, at the rear of the drying sheds, were the entrance to the dryings sheds, where I used to go and see Mary Cook hand making firebricks, the floors were perforated to let the heat in, and it was always warm. Further into the works on the left hand side was a hay barn, for packing the bricks. I and my friends used to play in the hay, to the right were the Beehive Kilns. Back along Park Lane the works continued along the wall till we got to a gate, where inside the gate the brick crushing rollers crushed fireclay and broken brick (grog). Further along the lane the works continued, there were several buildings, and at the end of the works, by a track was a building which housed a steam engine and winder with a wire rope attached to a pulley wheel which used to haul full sized trucks up and down the incline to the railway track in the valley below, which will be described later.
I remember Joe Stevens (the children's friend) and his horse and cart. He worked for King Bros hauling coal to the works and taking away the ashes, which was tipped down the marl hole the other side of Kings.
When his cart was empty we children used have a ride in the cart. I remember me and John Cook were riding in Joe's cart, when John touched the horse's backside. Joe did well to stop the horse from bolting.
The other side of the track, along Park Lane were a block of houses, I can only remember a few of the people that lived there, there were the Walls, the Tonks and Bert and Ethel Johnson kept the shop, which all the people down the lane went to. Just past the shop lived the Woodhouses and past the Woodhouses was the farm, a pair of semi detached houses, the Hattons lived in the one side and the Cooks lived in the other, there was no electric so the lighting was oil lamp, next to the houses were the barn and field, past the field was Pit Lane (now James Scott Road).
Opposite Pit Lane was the ruined works and kilns of Joseph Kings Chapel Brickworks, which made red brick and terra cotta, at the back of the works was the marl hole were Joe Stevens tipped the ashes from Kings firebrick works.
Bluebells and Spoil Heaps
Part way down Pit Lane was the spoil heap of Old Netherend Colliery, long gone, and the other side of the Lane were several houses, which the first one belonged to Mr. Knowles who delivered eggs to us. Farther down Pit Lane we come to what we knew as The Dingle, in the spring time it was covered in bluebells, then we come to the railway bridge, under the bridge its takes you to Hayes Lane, which we will talk about later. The right hand side of the bridge a footpath takes you to Mogul Lane, we will take the left hand side were we go up a track, on the left hand side we can see the spoil heap of Old Netherend Colliery and in the foreground the chasm of the Dingle, with at the one side a water filled shaft.
Further up the track we pass the laundry factory on the right hand side and straight ahead we reach the Cradley branch line (which we called the lines). To the right the Cradley branch line connected with the Stourbridge-Birmingham main line. We turn left down the line to the right the line goes under the Halesowen-Stourbridge main Road to the Coal hoppers connected by tramway to Beech Tree Colliery and Hayes Brickworks, also a tramway down from Hayes Firebrick works in Hayes Lane.
Straight ahead we go along the lines when we come to a pedestrian brick tunnel to Harpers & Moores which we knew as the thirty bob tunnel. The Railway Siding of Harper & Moores is on the right hand side, and straight ahead to line went to Park Road, to the left was Kings works red ash bank and Kings works Sidings, between the ash bank and the sidings the track went up to Kings offices on the left and pool and up into Park Lane with the brickworks and pulley wheel on the right.
Back to the Dingle we go under the railway bridge in Pit Lane to Hayes Lane straight ahead is the Chapel where I used to go to Sunday school with my sister, then we went to visit my aunt Marie Hingley in Hayes Lane then visit our gran Raybould in Stour Vale Road formerly Railway Street.
Back to Park Lane Tavern
When I was on my own I used to carry on up to the top of Hayes Lane past Mobberley & Perry to The Hayes then turn left over the bridge underneath which was the branch line to Beech Tree coal hoppers, on the right was Mobberley & Perry offices. Then I carried on up the hill till I reached Harpers & Moores brickworks on the left hand side, the Beehive kilns were in front of me. I can remember coming past these kilns when it was getting dark and seeing the flames shooting up out of the chimney ten or more feet.
Then we come to the offices and weighbridge, past the brickworks on the right hand was Clarry Thomson's garage, then we turn left back into Park Lane, either side of the Lane were the air raid shelters, then down Park Lane on the left we come to Attwoods, who were painters and decorators, and back to Park Lane Tavern.
That concludes our tour of Park Lane.