Category: Burntwood and Chasetown

By the time you read this….

I will be Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire. Yes, it is true, I am starting a new job on Wednesday. The last week in Staffordshire was kind of crazy and I had to make a decision in a hurry as to what I was going to do. The die however is cast and I am sitting in a loft thinking about what I have done.
I did have an interesting time in Staffordshire though, I saw many things, and many places, and visited many graves, There were four gems of cemeteries, (Ryecroft, Belgave, Key Hill and Warstone Lane) that I visited, and of course I also visited the cities of Birmingham.  and Lichfield
I do not know how long I will be where I am now, but hopefully I will be able to settle down and make something of my new situation. I expect there will be cemeteries to visit, and Worcester, Cheltenham and Gloucester are not too far away, and Bristol is also within range, Maybe you will soon be reading about my travels there soon.
So, do not despair, as they say in the classics… “I be bak!”
Updated: 03/05/2016 — 19:48

Graving in Burntwood

This morning I grabbed my goodies and headed off to St Matthews Hospital Burial Ground in Burntwood, Staffordshire. I really had two sites to photograph the CWGC graves of, the first being Christ Church in Burntwood, and the second being the hospital. Fortunately the church with it’s 6 CWGC graves was literally in throwing distance of the hospital burial grounds so I could accomplish two goals in one trip.
The graveyard was quite a large one, and my graves were reasonably easy to find, there is a modern extension too and burials still seem to occur there, although there is a new cemetery up the road. 
The church also has  wonderful old lychgate dating from 1931, and I really enjoy seeing those.  The church dates back to 1820, and it has a number of military memorials inside it. Unfortunately I was not able to get into the church to photograph them.
Well satisfied, I headed “up the road” to St Matthews. Along my way I encountered Prince’s Park, and if you blink you may just miss it.
The park is featured in the Guinness Book of Records as being the smallest park in the United Kingdom. It was created to commemorate the marriage of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales and Princess Alexandra of Denmark. There are three trees within its grounds named Faith, Hope and Charity. There is one bench and it is supposedly a favourite place with the local dogs.  In the image above the road that continues towards the left is where St Matthews Hospital Burial Ground is located.

There are 9 CWGC graves in the cemetery, and the gate is locked; the key supposedly available at the vicarage. However, nobody at the vicarage knew anything about the key, and after asking around I decided that there was no way I was going to get into the cemetery unless it was over the top. Fortunately the wall is not very high and after much huffing and puffing I was soon inside.

The CWGC graves are easy to find because they are the only ones that are still standing.  There are numerous markers stacked around the base of trees, and in some spots markers are laying flat in the ground. The only markings on the markers are numbers, and nothing else. There were supposed to be initials too, but I never saw any on the markers I looked at.
It is at this point where I really feel sad, because each of those numbers was a human being, a man, a woman or a child. The sad truth is the St Matthews was an “Asylum”, and those numbers probably refer to a date of death, or possibly a file number? The Burntwood Family History Group says that the numbers are dates, and probably a grave number or row. According to the website there are 1,560 men and 1,543 women buried in this small space. It also appears as if there are records available, so these people are not unknown, although their lives were probably often short and tragic. The hospital served the military in World War Two but was closed in 1995, and the only real remnants are part of the administration block and the chapel.
The administration block was really magnificent, and is now used as flats as the grounds of the hospital are now a housing estate. The chapel is in use by a nursery school, and it is next to the new Burntwood Cemetery.
I do not know whether there was a graveyard attached to the former chapel, if there was it is now a parking lot, playground and a modern cemetery.

It was time for me to head off home, my task complete. I had my graves. I had spoken to a local at the social club who did tell me a lot about the hospital and showed me images from its past. But I still felt saddened by that empty field of graves that I had been in earlier. It was covered in yellow flowers now, and I thought that they were a fine tribute to those unfortunates who are buried beneath them. May they have found the peace that they deserved. I may come back to this post about St Matthews as I do some reading, it does seem like a fascinating place to read about, and I am sure somewhere I will find the war stories associated with it.

My next port of call was the Burntwood War Memorial which was not too far away. It is a modern memorial, and I expect not too many people are even aware of it.
I only found out about it because I had spoken to a local, and he advised me that I should visit the Cannock Chase War Cemetery too, and that happened shortly after I got home, and it shall appear in this blog shortly.

DRW © 2015-2020. Created 27/03/2015, images migrated 28/04/2016

Updated: 22/03/2020 — 18:54

Steaming with the Chasewater Railway

On this slightly gloomy morning I headed down to Chasewater Railway which runs around Chasewater Country Park. It is really the remnants of the historic Cannock Chase Collier Line, and operates out of Brownhills West Station.
The station is almost a destination in itself, with a cafe, shop, museum, model railway, narrow gauge railway, and the normal gauged trains that run on the almost 4 miles of track almost around the Chasewater Reservoir.
There are 4 stations on the line: Brownhills West, Norton Lakeside, Chasetown (Church Street) and  Chasewater Heights. On this particular day they did 6 trips, each taking roughly 45 minutes. The locomotive in use was the diminutive Andrew Barclay 0-4-0st “Colin McAndrew” Works No. 1223 of 1911.
There were two coaches in the consist, one being a mixed slam door sub and the other a compo/guards/corridor first class saloon.  The former is in the image below.
This was my first experience of older BR passenger stock, and I was pleasantly surprised. The coaches were spacious and reasonably well appointed without the heavy leather and wood look of the old slam door subs in South Africa. However, I do not know whether this was what they looked like in BR service originally.
Compo/corridor coach

Compo/corridor coach

1st Class compartment

1st Class compartment

Presumably 3rd class?

I had decided to do the first trip to Chasetown Heaths as they supposedly had a G Gauge railway in the station, and then return to Brownhills for some snooping. I would then reboard at 1.30 and go all the way to the end of the line and head off home from there. 
Our diminutive loco was dwarfed by the coaches behind her, she looked way too small for such a load, but these small locos have big hearts as they were built for industrial use and were very good with large loads.  The station had a number of  lines around it, filled with the old, tired and derelict, and projects for the future. Diesels were very well represented, as were a number of old industrial wagons. I suspect the railway operates on the “preserve what can be preserved and hope that one day we can tackle the rest when we have funds/volunteers/skills/spares”. It is a dilemma faced by most heritage rail and preservation societies. 
And then we were off….
And we were off slowly! This loco was not in a hurry at all, but then considering that there was no real rush I can understand the leisurely pace. The track is also not a very long one, so completing it in 45 minutes was probably very do-able. I could probably walk the same track in the same time, but at this moment it was good to hear a steamer in front of the train once again.  The trip to Chasetown Heaths was short and I bailed out to grab some pics and to see the G Gauge railway.
Unfortunately the G Gauge was not happening, so I spent some time idling around while I waited for the train to return. I was very interested to see whether they had turned the loco around, considering her size I would be surprised if they didn’t.  Lo and behold they had shunted the loco to the back of the train (which was now the front), and she was running cab first, which made the drivers life so much easier as all the smoke was blowing over the coaches and not over the loco. 

Now that I was back at Brownhills West I could take a look around the museum and the rolling stock in the yard and sheds. There are no mainline locos stabled here, it is mostly an industrial engine operation, and it is very professional and smart too.

I then scoped out the museum, but as I did not grow up in the UK a lot of the heritage here was outside of my experience and knowledge. I then had a look at some of the other equipment on the lines into the sheds and next to the station, and there were a lot of very interesting items. 

It was almost time for me to leave. The train had arrived and the loco was up at the water tank having a drink and stocking up with coal for her next trip. It was almost 13H30, and I was finished for the day. All that was needed was a last trip to the Church Street Station. 

The end of our coach had a glass window where you could see the loco in front, and it was monopolised by a woman and a baby, but I did get one shot from it, and you can see the cab and the driver and fireman. 

I almost forgot to get off at the station, and once I did I saw the passing loop that they used to run the loco to the back of the train, there was no need for a triangle or a turntable. 

And as I crossed the bridge to get home I could see the two brown coaches, the small green loco hidden from view, but ready to take her locad back to the starting point. There were two more trips to go, and by the time I got home she would be getting ready once again,  and I could not help but think that the loco reminded me a lot of Ivor the Engine.

I returned to the Chasewater Railway on the Easter Weekend and they were using two loco’s. The Friday was being handled by a class 08 Diesel Shunter D3429, and the Saturday by a Hunslett saddle tank loco 3783 “Holly Bank No3”. I also returned on Sunday to see the Peckett in action, and look for my lost camera batteries. In all it was a very successful outing.

Class 08-D3429 (Built in Crewe 1958)

Class 08-D3429 (Built in Crewe 1958)

Hunslett Saddle tank 0-6-0ST "Holly Bank 3"

Hunslett Saddle tank 0-6-0ST “Holly Bank 3”

Peckett & Sons 2012 “Teddy”.

On Saturday 15 May, I went to get better images of the Class 08 diesel and was pleasantly surprised to find that there were two trains running on that day, and one was waiting at Chasetown Church Street for the passenger train to arrive with the Class 08 in charge. This train consisted of 3 brakevans, and the loco in charge was a saddle tank Bagnall 2842 of 1946.

Bagnall 2842 of 1946

Bagnall 2842 of 1946

DRW © 2015-2020. Created 22/03/2015, updated 15/05/2015, images migrated 28/04/2016

Updated: 22/03/2020 — 19:29
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