Sarah (Sally) Jones - "A genius in her own right, trusted and respected by all"
Sarah Jones, known as Sally, was born in Colley Gate, Cradley on 25th November 1850, to Samuel and Elizabeth. She was the youngest of their seven children and the only one to be born in Cradley.
Samuel was born in 1806 in Rushbury, a small village near Wenlock Edge in Shropshire. Elizabeth and three of Sally's older brothers and sisters were born in Highley, near Bridgnorth, about half way between Rushbury and the Black Country and another brother was born in Stourton, closer still. Clearly, they were amongst the many people who moved from the Shropshire countryside to the industrial towns of the Black Country during this period.
Samuel and Elizabeth and their family arrived in Cradley in the late 1840s, and in 1851 Samuel still described himself as a farmer of 12 acres employing 4 labourers. However he set himself up as a shopkeeper, trading in Colley Gate as a fruiterer, plant dealer and greengrocer.
As for Sally, in 1867 she married Benjamin Attwood, a Cradley chain maker and nail maker and they had two children, Mary Ann and John William Attwood. But the marriage was not successful and Ben left Cradley for Ulverston in Lancashire where eventually he established himself as a furniture dealer, returning to Cradley frequently to visit his family.
In 1881 Sally and her two children were lodging in the house of John Forrest, a cattle drover, in Church Road, Cradley. By this time Sally too was a cattle drover and she became well known for her occupation. In 1884 she re-married to Thomas Cross, a butcher and later also a cattle drover and a cattle dealer. Her son John died in November 1888, at 13 years old.
There are still people in Cradley today, born around 1910 or earlier, who can remember Sally driving cattle through the streets on the way to the butchers in the early years of the last century. One of them recalls as a child looking down from her bedroom window in Two Gates Lane, into the backyard of the Round of Beef public house, where some of Sally's cattle and sheep were slaughtered.
Cliff Willetts1 describes her in some detail in his book on Cradley at the turn of the century (1900), "When I was a boy". There are stories in her family that Sally was not kind to her children, but whatever the private side of her life, the public face was a very different story. Cliff describes her in the following terms:
"Mondays were nights of great excitement to children. The Cradley butchers would go to Hagley cattle market and purchase the beasts, sheep and pigs. They were driven up Hagley Hill, Broadmarsh, Foxcote Lane and Two Gates. The beasts were marked with a label, stuck on their backs, the sheep and pigs with a symbol to identify the buyer. The drover was Sally Jones, whose job it was to deliver to the butchers their respective purchases. What a nightmare this would be to the uninitiated. To Sally it was no problem. She was the expert in whom the butchers had supreme confidence. Somehow she marshalled the children to stand at openings and side streets, to prevent her charges straying off the highway. She duly delivered her charges to the correct butchers, ready for slaughter the following day. She did a first class job. She was a genius in her own right. Cradley was the richer for such people as Sally Jones, the drover, trusted and respected by all."
Sally's grandson remembers that she wore a metal number plate on her arm to confirm that she was a bona fide drover, and that she used to smoke a clay pipe which she filled with 'Red Bell' tobacco.
Sally died at 97 Butcher's Lane, Cradley in November 1923, three years after Thomas had died. She left three daughters of their marriage: Harriet, Elizabeth and Sarah May, and Mary Ann from her first marriage to Ben Attwood.
1 Clifford Willetts OBE (1896-1981) was born at Two Gates, Cradley on 20th October 1896. He was first elected to Halesowen District Council in 1935 and was a member of Halesowen Borough Council from 1936. He became mayor in 1950-51, deputy mayor 1951-52 and Alderman from 1956-62. In 1963 he was granted the freedom of the Borough and from 1955-74 was a member of Worcestershire County Council. In 1974 he was elected to the new Dudley Metropolitan Council where he served until his death. He was awarded the OBE in 1980.
... from Cradley Then & Now p. 36
Sally was the great, great grandmother of Nigel Brown , who would welcome making contact with any descendants of Sally and Thomas, or of Sally's brothers and sisters. They may have the surname JONES, CROSS, CORFIELD or GRAZIER. Nigel can be contacted at email@example.com