Childhood Memories from a Bygone Age

This article originally appeared in Belbroughton Parish Magazine in November 2012.

In the early 1970’s, the Bromsgrove Messenger featured an article about Belbroughton and its history. This brought back memories to one elderly reader and prompted her to write to the newspaper. It gives a colourful account of a childhood spent in the village at the end of the 1900’s.  The letter reads as follows:

Dear Sir,

It was with much pleasure that I read the article in the ‘Bromsgrove Messenger’ about my native village of Belbroughton.

It brought back many happy memories of my childhood which was spent there. I was born in 1888 in the neighbouring village of Broome; our family moved to the ‘Firlands Farm’, Belbroughton, when my Father, George Leeson, went to work for Mr. Shilcock as his waggoner. I was then 5yrs. old so with my two older brothers started at the village school (1893). Miss Lamb was our headmistress with a Miss Goodyear, and Mr. Best the boys’ teacher.

I was interested to read about the different restorations to the Church and well remember taking our pennies to school for a collection for the repairs to the Nave and Chancel. We had a special ‘Thanksgiving Service’ when this was completed with a procession to Church. One of the hymns we sang was ‘We Love Thy Place O God’, which is still one of my favourite hymns. The Rev. Eld was then the Vicar.

We attended Sunday School at the Church when we would be arrayed in our Sunday frilled pinafores. On one such occasion when crossing ‘Rum Alley Bridge’ on our way my brothers spotted a Speckled Trout in the low water. Forgetting all about Sunday School they decided to have a go catching it which they did. Having caught it, I was told to hold out my pinny and the wriggling trout was dropped in. I was told to run back home with it, while the rest of the family continued on to Sunday School. On arriving home I thought I should be welcomed with such a catch, but I was scolded by my Mother who quickly found me a clean pinny and sent me running back to Sunday School, where I arrived red faced and late much to my brothers’ amusement.

The Millstones which are mentioned in the article remind me of our weekly walk to the ‘Mill’ which was kept by a Mr. Bill and his two sons; this was to collect 3 packs of flour for Mother’s baking day, for this we took the family pram, the three wheeled type. I used to look forward to this weekly event as one of the Miller’s sons used to take me up to see the big mill wheels going round.

When I was twelve we left Belbroughton and came to live in Frankley. I didn’t attend school again. Although I received no further education after leaving the village school I have always been able to take my place in society and have had no difficulty in expressing myself in writing, reading, spelling, and arithmetic, although I do find the new decimal money a bit trying.

I have enjoyed telling you my story and would be interested if there are any other old Belbroughtonians around! 

The Bromsgrove Messenger used to be our only newspaper; I have seen many changes in it. I hope I will be able to go on reading it for some years to come.

(Signed)  S.A. Stevenson

The letter was given to the Society by the writer’s daughter, who told us that her mother was 84yrs old when she wrote it.  She died in 1979 aged 91, so she did enjoy several more years after setting down her story.

The Mill mentioned by Mrs. Stevenson stood at the end of Dark Lane. ‘Firlands Farm’ is likely to be ‘Furlongs Farm’ on Hockley Brook Lane – unless anyone can shed any more light on its situation?

The letter, with its ready command of the English language and its colourful descriptions is a high commendation for the standard of basic education in the village school at the end of the Victorian Age.