History Day: Smethwick’s Heritage
On Tuesday 24th November, SHP will be celebrating History Day. The aim of the day is for us to understand and celebrate Smethwick’s heritage. To get involved, we have been given homework to interview a family member/member of the community who has lived in Smethwick for a long time. Since I’m a blogger, I thought “What could be a better way to present my findings than to dedicate a whole post to Smethwick?”
We’ve been given 4 sample questions that we could include such as:
- Where in Smethwick have you lived?
- Where have you worked?
- Which school did you go to and what was it like?
- How has Smethwick changed?
Based on those sample questions given, I managed to generate 21 of my own questions for the interview.
My Road to Smethwick
Because I don’t have any family members in Smethwick, I had to find a member of the community that was willing to share their life in Smethwick with me. So, I went out with Mr. Dad on Saturday and started to approach random people. What I did was introduce myself, gave them one of my name cards and explained to them the purpose of the interview. Now, this part was very challenging because most of the people that I approached either said that they are not from Smethwick or that they are simply too busy to spare their time for me.
The first place that I went to was Thimblemill Library. I asked a few people until I came across the affectionate Mr Noble. I managed to complete the whole interview session with him. However, he was only 29 years old and I would love to find out more about Smethwick back in the older days. So, out on the road, I went to my next destination which was Smethwick library. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to find anyone but the good thing was that I found more information about Smethwick and some photos too.
After that, I went back to where I started, Bearwood Road. I visited the butchers but apparently, he was too busy. Fair enough, though, because it’s Saturday. As I stepped out of the butchers, I was feeling down. Little did I know, a miracle was about to happen. When I looked up, ‘Maureens Florist‘ sat in front of me. I entered the shop and there stood my heaven-sent Mrs Collier! She said “Yes” straight away and the interview session went smoothly. I enjoyed every single bit of her story.
Who is Smethwick?
Did you know how Smethwick got it’s name? According to the Smethwick Heritage Centre, it was suggested that the name Smethwick meant “smiths’ place of work”, but a more modern interpretation has implied the name in fact means, “The settlement on the smooth land”. Smethwick was recorded in the Domesday book as Smedeuuich.
As I was doing my research, I found out that there are many notable residents that have lived in Smethwick. Most of these people were born in Smethwick. Some of them are:
I. Sir Charles Douglas Fox (1840 – 1921) He was an English Civil Engineer who was born in Smethwick. Amongst other things, Sir Charles had designed The Crystal Palace in Hyde Park.
II. Sydney Francis Barnes (1873 – 1967) He was an English professional cricketer who is generally regarded as one of the greatest ever bowlers.
III. Ken Wharton (1916 – 1957) He was a British racing driver. In 1957, Wharton was fatally injured when his Ferrari Monza crashed in a sports car race at the Ardmore Circuit in New Zealand.
And many more…
Out of all those notable residents, there was one person that really caught my attention. Personally, I adore her work very much. Remember the 89 individually sculptured owls which have been displayed all over Birmingham? Well, they were sculpted by the one and only Caroline Jariwala! She is a painter, visiting lecturer, exhibitions organiser and community artist. Her experience covers a wide range of art forms, such as illustration, batik, mural and mosaic.
“There is also something magically about mosaic-making with broken, chipped, discarded, rejected and second-hand crockery. Using the unwanted and making it desirable; transforming ‘ugly’ into a thing of ‘beauty’.” -Caroline Jariwala
Not only these, but, there are lots of other great things that make Smethwick a unique place to live in. For example, Smethwick is also famous for it’s architecture, political history, transport history, and many other things. Smethwick is a wonderful place with sensational smells, tastes and sights. But how was it like in the past? Well, you are just about to find out. There were strict teachers that hit children with the cane, it was busy almost every day and there was a smell coming out of the famous Brewery that filled the air. Still, Smethwick was a great place to live in. But lots of things have changed about Smethwick. The teachers are less strict, the Brewery doesn’t exist anymore and we get less homework. But imagine if you could experience how Smethwick was in the 1990‘s or even further back to the 1970’s. Me and the people that I interviewed can help you with that. Here they are!
My Heaven-sent Mrs Collier
Have you ever been to Maureens Florist in Bearwood? If yes, you might have met Mrs Collier. She has been a florist all her life. If you put her and flowers together, you will not be able to break them apart! This is her pawsome Smethwick:
“Hello! My name is Lynn Collier and I am 54 years old. I am married and I have two sons. My family have lived in Smethwick for approximately 60 years now. I am currently working as a florist and have worked as a florist in Northfield, Harborne and Quinton in the past. But, I am proud to be working at Maureens Florist because they have been serving the community of Smethwick for more than 40 years. I have lived in Bearwood, Gladys Road and Galton Road.”
“My primary school was called St Mary’s Primary School and my high school was called Dame Elizabeth Cadbury Senior School. I can still remember how lovely both of them were as if I was there yesterday. When I was 9 years old, the streets of Smethwick were busy almost everyday. And how could I forget the smells of the Brewery at Cape Hill that filled the air. In those days, going to school was really nice. It was safe and we had no worries. The teachers were very strict and there was lots of homework too. Naughty children got the cane but strictness is a good way to help them evolve into well-behaved children. Our uniform was brown and cream coloured with a touch of blue. My favourite subject was art because I love colour! I also liked pottery and history because I like to know about the good old days. One of the best teachers that I can remember is called Mrs Bared. I am actually still in touch with her until today. She was a lovely lady and a great teacher. I couldn’t possibly forget about the school lunch which was absolutely divine. My favourite pudding was called Chocolate Concrete.”
“In the past, there were lots of shops packed with hundreds of items and a range of houses just in front of the shops but now, there are lots of empty shops and houses scattered here and there. Some of the local shops that I remember visiting are Woolworths and my favourite Edward Toy Shop. In our spare time, me and my friends would play outside in the park. And last but not least, if I could keep one thing about Smethwick for the future generation to see, I would definitely keep Lightwoods Park with the old, big house and clock because that is a part of Smethwick’s heritage that we should all preserve!”
My Affectionate Mr. Noble
That was the interview with Mrs Lynn Collier. Now, moving on, the next person that I interviewed was a man called Mr Noble. He is a librarian at Thimblemill Library in Smethwick. Here is what he said in the interview:
“Hello there! I am Richard Noble and I am 29 years old. My dad is from Birmingham and my mum is from North Yorkshire. They met when they were both studying at the University of Liverpool. I have lived in Smethwick for most of my life. I have lived around Bearwood next to Warley Woods and I love it! I have two jobs: one was as an admin assistant for NHS and the other one is Sandwell MBC Library Service. I am also an artist in my spare time. I have worked all across Sandwell and Birmingham.”
“The first school that I went to was called Abbey Junior and Infants School. Later, I went to Warley High School which is now known as Oldbury Academy. Then, I went to Halesowen College, Bourneville College of Art and also Birmingham City University. Smethwick is a nice area, quite cultural and is ethnically diverse even then. When I was 9 years old, I used to have many friends which I am still in touch with until now but some of them have moved away. Back in my days, the teachers were alright. A few were strict and the others were eccentric. In primary school, we wore blue jumpers or cardigans with the school logo in yellow with sensible trousers and shoes. I liked art because I was always creative and I liked history too. I also enjoyed Maths. One of the best teachers in primary school was called Mrs Brown. She was truly inspiring! School in those days were pretty much the same as it is now. The school lunches were quite like the school lunches we have now. It was either packed lunch or school meals. The only difference is what is on the lunch box.”
“When I was a child, I remember visiting lots of shops in Smethwick but my all time favourite would be none other than Woolworths. They had lots of toys and sweets inside their shop. Some of the businesses have come and gone. Even though Smethwick was already ethnically diverse, more groups from different ethnical backgrounds arrived over time. Whenever me and my friends had nothing to do, we would play sports games, play video games, watch tv and watch videos but we didn’t use YouTube, we used VHS. I bet modern kids have no idea what VHS is! I also loved reading. Books have always been my passion. Finally, if I could keep one thing about Smethwick to be in the future, it would be the parklands because they do so much to enhance local residence lives.”
The Grand Finale
That’s the end of Mr Noble’s interview. These two people have been kind enough to give up some of their time to be interviewed, therefore, I would like to give them a big thank you. I really appreciate their stories of Smethwick that they have shared with me.
Having heard the stories of their pawsome life in Smethwick, I wish that I had the time machine from the movie Back to the Future. Maybe I could be McFly and Mr. Dad could be “Doc” and we both could travel back in time. If I can go back to the 1970’s, I wish that I could smell how the air was like at Cape Hill. I could even sit down with Mrs Collier during lunch time at school and enjoy the taste of divine Chocolate Concrete. Perhaps both me and Mrs Collier could spend time together at her favourite Edward Toy Shop. How pawsome would that be. If I could go back to the 1990’s, I will surely join Mr Noble and his friends watching videos on the VHS! (In my dreams…)
I wish that one day, someone could invent the time machine for real because it would be a great and fun way for children to learn if they could travel back in time. They will not just be looking at photos and reading information, they’ll actually be living it! Oh, and a note to the teachers, think of it as a school trip!
Last but not least, sit back and enjoy a poem written by me which is dedicated to Smethwick.
My Pawsome Smethwick
My pawsome Smethwick,
What would I do without it?
Ain’t it, mate?
It’s a county,
In a city,
In a country,
In the world!
At night, everyone’s snuggled up and curled
And when it’s day,
They’ll put France in a beret!
There’s shops galore on one street,
Some of them sell meat
And if you come and they’re all sold out,
Most of you will start to pout!
And all of this is in…
MY PAWSOME SMETHWICK!!! (#No.1)
by: The Pawsome Lion (Sunday, 22nd November 2015)
Here comes the grand finale! I would like to present a video of my PAWSOME Smethwick shot by Mr. Dad. Here it goes!
p/s: I really enjoyed learning about local history and I hope everyone else did too!
p/p/s: Special thanks to Mr Dad for the Pawsome video and a Roarsome thank you to Mrs Mom for always believing in me!!
Word Count: 2,225
- Smethwick Library
- Smethwick Heritage Centre
- The Bearwood Blog (bearwoodblog.com)
- We Love Bearwood (welovebearwood.blogspot.com)
- We are Bearwood (www.wearebearwood.org)
- Media Source: Google Images & TPL