In 1997 a small article in the Halesowen News asked for anyone interested in Cradley's past to attend a meeting at Providence Methodist Church. Walter Hughes, the local education co-ordinator called the meeting and those who attended were, Julie and Kevin Powis, Mike and Steve Hill and Jill Guest. This became the first committee of what became the Cradley Then and Now Historical Group.
The first meeting was held on Monday 3rd November 1997 at Colley Lane Library, with a local history display as part of Dudley libraries week, refreshments including groaty pudding and bread pudding.
The next meeting was held on Monday December 1st 1997 at Cradley Library, when tape recorders were used to record memories (see transcript of tape produced by Kevin Powis in the Cradley Then and Now book).
Sadly we have lost some of the original members, but after 10 years most of the people in the picture gallery below are still members.
1998 - Cradley Timeline
Meetings continued to be held at Cradley Library and on 21st September 1998 the Cradley Time Line was launched, funded by Dudley libraries it was researched by Jill Guest and the group. Also in September that year members of the group were at Dudley Town Hall for a Local History Fair. Then on the first Saturday in October the first Cradley Day was held at Cradley High School. It was opened by Tommy Mundon, I have no pictures from this event. At the Christmas meeting we were entertained by a choir from Caslon School, the Christmas story in Black Country dialect and Black Country jokes from Maurice Cole.
In 1999 speakers included, Margaret Bradley and Barry Blunt on the History of Cradley Churches, Jack Deeley on Cradley Churchyard and a family history workshop. A grant was applied for to fund the publishing of the Cradley Heritage Trail, which became the Cradley Then and Now book.
On the return journey an idea was suggested to try out old Black Country crafts like podging and corking. On Wednesday 19th July 2000 the first meeting of the Podging class was held at Park Lane Unitarian Church Hall. The August meeting at Cradley Library was attended by 65 people including local MP Debra Shipley and her gran, who enjoyed a talk by Michael and Paul Burgess on the local pits.
On the first Saturday in October, October 7th 2000 the second Cradley Day was held at Cradley Community Centre, Tommy Mundon was again on hand to launch the new Cradley Then and Now book featuring the Cradley Heritage trail. The cost of producing this book was met by a grant from the lottery fund. Speakers during the day included, Betty Griffin, Bev Pegg, John Cooksey, Hazel Clifton, Barry Blunt and Margaret Bradley.
Because of the lack of space at the library it was decided to hold the Christmas meeting at Park Lane Unitarian Church hall, where the Podgin class was meeting. Which was just as well as over 70 people were present and were entertained by 'Come sing wi we' from the Far Forest branch of the Black Country Society. At the Carol service at Park Lane Church the previous evening the first podged rug produced by the craft class was presented to the church, and is now in the hall.
The meetings continued to be held at Park Lane Hall in 2001, in March 82 people enjoyed a Faggots and Peas evening. And in April members went to Colley Lane Primary school to talk about their memories of the school in preparation for its centenary in 2002.
In May Jill went to the Radio WM studios in Birmingham to talk to Carl Chinn and ask for Colley Lane memories. The Memory meetings continued at Colley Lane school on Friday afternoons. The podgin ladies started a new rug, and tried to have a day out, they eventually made it in June.
Dun y'know es bin twelve month come the middle of July, Since we started the podgen, we thought we'd ge it a try.
Some on we could remember ow it was done, an some on we ay quite that od, But we soon got the hang of the podgen, an cutting, once we'd been showed.
We thought as we'd like t'go out fer the day, the fust day o'spring we wun towd The sun it ud shine, so t'Bewdley we'd go, we day get very far 'cause it snowed.
Every other Wednesday we meets about two, Cynthia, Sheila, Mary, Pat an' Anne, Betty an Mary, Nita an Mu, do forget Glenisse an' Betty with her jam.
Yo'm welcome t'come an try yer 'ond at cutting or podgin any day Or yo con just cum for a friendly cant, an a good cup of tay!
On Sunday 1st July 2001 the second Then and Now trip was to Bridgemere Gardens.
In August the podgers took their partly made rug to the Black Country Museum to meet Carl Chinn, who was broadcasting his programme from there. It was a lovely sunny day, we enjoyed fish and chips from the chip shop with a shandy from the pub, before going to meet Carl. Muriel told him all about her grandfather, Benjamin Hodgetts, king of the chain makers, I don't think she realised till afterwards she had been on the radio!
In September we held a fundraising evening for Cancer Research.
2001 - Cradley Links web site
October 2001 the Cradley Links website was launched at www.cradleylinks.com. And in November 2001 the first Fish and Chip supper was held to celebrate the 4th Birthday of the Then and Now Group. The speaker at the Christmas meeting was Hazel Clifton with a true Christmas story.
In 2002 the craft class tried other crafts after finishing the new rug, which was displayed in the library. Then and Now meetings continued at Park Lane, the first AGM was held on April 8th. On Wednesday 17th April Jill and Muriel were at Colley Lane School to see the picture of the school commissioned by the group handed over by the artist Bill Hazelhurst. In June members attended the Queen's Jubilee celebrations at Park Lane Church and Overend Methodist Mission. On Tuesday 25th and Wednesday 26th July members of the craft class helped the children at Colley Lane with their centenary celebrations by making peg dolls, corking and podging with the children.
The centenary celebrations for old scholars and staff on 3rd 4th and 5th July were well attended and enjoyed by both young and old.
Thursday 1st August Then and Now members took part in the Cradley Play Day at the Bernard Oakley Memorial Gardens with a tombola. On Monday 12th August the meeting was held at Haden Hill House, with a guided tour and refreshments.
On Saturday 5th October the 3rd Cradley Day was held at Colley Lane Primary School as part of its centenary celebrations. There were many visitors who came to see the old school before its demolition.
On Monday November 11th our 5th birthday was celebrated with a Fish and Chip Supper at Park Lane.
In 2003 the committee decided to hold meetings every month apart from January, speakers in 2003 included Ned William, John Sparry, Edward Shaw, Marlene Price and Jean Weston.
On Saturday 10th May 2003 the new book by John Cooksey, Brick making in the Black Country was launched at Cradley Library. In May the AGM was combined with a bring and share meeting. Kevin Powis was made a life president of Cradley Then and Now and Irving Billingham became the new chairman, the committee now consisted of chairman Irving Billingham, President Kevin Powis, secretary Bev Walton, treasurer Jill Guest, committee members, Julie Powis, Brian Knowles, Enid Billingham and June Farmer.
In October Harry Harrison from the Black Country Bugle visited Cradley Library and talked to Then and Now members. The fish and chip supper was held in November.
In July the Cradley Celebration of Crafts was held at Overend Methodist Mission. The August meeting was held at High Town Ragged School, with a talk about its history. And on August 17th a coach party went to Stokesay Castle, the sun shone till we were back on the coach, then it drizzled all the way home.
Speakers in 2004 included, Ned Williams, Bernard Hackett, John Cooksey, John Sparry, and a visit to Two Gates Ragged School in August for a talk about its history from Barry Willetts. The craft class continued to meet on Wednesdays. The AGM was again held in May. On Sunday 18th July 43 members took a coach trip to Baddesley Clinton and again enjoyed lovely weather. And on Sunday September 5th another coach party went Hop Picking, on what must have been one of the hottest days of the year.
Friday October 1st Jill and Brian Knowles represented the Then and Now group at the official opening of the new Colley Lane School. And on Saturday October 2nd 2004 the 4th Cradley Day was held at Providence Methodist Church, Windmill Hill. Talks and displays included, Cradley poems from Jim Hackett, slides from John Cooksey, the vicars notebooks from Margaret Bradley and Barry Blunt, displays by Glen Billingham, Bryn Williams, Dudley Archives, BMSGH, the Attwoods Patrick and Sylvia Shaw, Cradleylinks Nigel Brown and Steve Bloomer from the Rams trust. Tommy Mundon and Laurie Harris judged the Bread pudding competition the winner being Glenys Bloomer. Cradley Day was opened by the deputy mayor of Dudley Councillor Ian Kettle and Mrs Kettle. Glenys Bloomer was presented with her silver salver for winning the Bread Pudding Competition at the Fish and chip supper in November when David Bartley entertained.
2004 - Vicar's Notebooks
In December at Cradley Library the transcripts of the Vicar's Notebooks were launched and the originals handed over to Diane Matthews of the Dudley Archives and Local History service for safe keeping. The Notebooks were transcribed by Margaret Bradley and Barry Blunt and have provided a fascinating insight to life in Cradley in the 1850's and 60's.
In 2005 Speakers included John Cooksey, John Sparry, Ned Williams, Bernard Hackett, John Boynton and Suzy Scott from the Black Country Museum. Our visit in August to a Cradley church was to St Peters. In May members attended the VE Day celebrations at Overend Methodist Mission and also the VE day street party at Colley Lane school. The craft class has changed format, some of the ladies go to Colley Lane schools on Wednesday lunchtimes to a craft class with years 5 and 6 where the children enjoy knitting, corking, podging and embroidery. The knitting takes the form of squares to sew into blankets. Members have also helped with topic work on the 2nd World War.
In August a coach party took a trip along the river Wye with Brian Draper, again the weather was kind.
In November we held our 8th Birthday Fish and chip supper.
In 2006 our speakers included Ned Williams, John Billingham, John Cooksey, Barry Willetts and Bernard Hackett, our church visit this year in August was to Park Lane Unitarian Chapel for a talk about its history, the new book about the history of Park Lane and the war diaries of one of its ministers having been published in June. At the AGM in May, Irving Billingham was made a life president of Cradley Then and Now and Muriel Bennett was voted in as the new chairman, the rest of the committee staying the same.
On October 7th the 5th Cradley Day was held at High Town Ragged School in Mapletree Lane, with the Black Country Bugle calling it 'a resounding success' there were three competitions, Bread Pudding, won by Mary Knowles, Poetry by Sam Taylor and photographic won by Malcolm Grove. David Bartley judged the poetry and bread pudding and Ernest Walton the photographs. Displays included the Steve Bloomer display by the Rams Trust, Walking sticks, Bryn Williams, model boats, Terry Hooper, BMSG, Cradley Chain, Barry Willetts, Cradleylinks website Nigel Brown, handmade crafts, Joan Williams, handmade wooden fruit and pens, Colin Hart, and displays of maps and pictures of Cradley and the book stall.
Cradley Day by David Bartley
Cradley reunions, Cradley conversations, Cradley tales and revelations. Cradley heritage, Cradley tradition, Cradley history, a Cradley mission. Cradley women and Cradley men, Cradley now and Cradley then. Cradley links, Cradley connections, Cradley thoughts and recollections. Cradley characters, Cradley chat, about Cradley this and Cradley that. Cradley passion and Cradley pride, Cradley people side by side. Cradley memories, Cradley news, Cradley nostalgia, Cradley views. A Cradley celebration, its here to stay, long live Cradley and Cradley Day.
2007 - Triple Launch
Our speakers for 2007 have included Don Cochrane, Harry Bloomer and Warren Smith with the Cradley Heath DVD, Daphne Knight, Barry Willetts, John Billingham and Bernard Hackett, our AGM was held in May and this years church visit was to Overend Methodist Mission in August. On Saturday May 19th 2007 we held a triple launch at Cradley Library, the new Cradley Links website [this one!], with Nigel and Jill going to talk to Carl Chinn on the radio about the website and the books on Sunday May 20th. The old Cradley Links is also back online running alongside the new one.
The latest transcription by Margaret Bradley and Barry Blunt, the 1843 Tithe Map of Cradley, is the latest in a long line of transcriptions including Court Rolls and Wills and Inventories, with more on the way. We are very lucky to have Margaret and Barry willing to make all this history of Cradley available. And lastly the Articles by Norman Bird originally written for the Parish magazine in the 1950's called Fragments of Cradley History, and transcribed into book form by Nigel Brown, this has proved one of our most popular books, with half the reprint already sold.
I am now booking speakers for 2008, some old friends and some new, we still have several churches in Cradley we have not visited yet and the planning for next year's Cradley Day has started. As I write this our 10th Anniversary Fish and Chip supper is only 2 weeks away and I am wondering if I can squeeze another two people in to an already full hall.
I had no idea when I attended that first meeting, 10 years ago that we would have a flourishing history society, publishing its own books, two websites and many, many new friends, none of which would have been possible without all the help and support we have received. Thank You!
I have no idea what the next 10 years will bring, new ideas, new books, new people all with one thing in common, CRADLEY!