My Visit to Staffs and Birmingham

TP Garlick - December 24th 1875

(From the pages of a long-forgotten exercise book comes this graphic account of a visit made to the Black Country at Christmas 1875, bringing, as no contemporary document could hope to do, the very essence of those times nearly a hundred years ago).

This article first appeared in The Blackcountryman in Volume 2, Issue 3

Started from Greens Norton (Northants) at 7.15am, arriving at Blissworth via Towcester and reached Wednesbury, the end of the journey at 1.30pm, where we were met by Mrs Garlick who took us up through the market place; rather a large amount of business being done at the time. We then went with Mrs Garlick (to what I will for convenience call home) and dined, after which we went with R to see the market place at Great Bridge, which was rather dull.

On the road we saw several houses that were sunk several feet; we passed two chapels, the Methodist New Connexion and the Primitive Methodist. We saw also drunken people in abundance. We then returned to Wednesbury, going by the local post office, town hall and the Liberal Club, into the market place where sad to say the liqour shops glared most prominently. Men and women were going in and out very fast to partake of the cup that drowns their reason and destroys their virtue and leaves them not, except by a miracle, this side of eternity. There, men and women were passing almost helplessly drunk; men were passing us with a glass of grog in their hands and a ragged coat on their backs.

Alas is not that always the case? The more drink the more misery. Misery and vice are always in its wake. I would that it were banished from our land. I have felt my responsibility more since I have been here than ever I did before; I am determined to be an avowed enemy to the drinking customs. My heart has really ached and I almost shudder to think of the evil which may result from its use in our own family. When I think of it I hate it; I detest it. The Lord preserve me and all our family from tasting of the bitter cup which is the certain result of its persistent use.

We left the market for home about 10.30pm where we arrived in safety and retired for the night.

Dec 25 Came down to breakfast at 9.00am, after which we went to sing with Mr Hindsley, which I enjoyed very much. Afterwards we received a visit from George Flowers, and after dinner we started for Birmingham, which we felt a slight difficulty in reaching, for we were too late for the train at Great Bridge. One of the porters then directed us to Dudley Port to go from there, forgetting that the trains were running as on Sundays. There were no trains for nearly three hours, so we came back to Swan Village where we waited for an hour before we started for Birmingham, where we arrived in safety and called to see Mrs Liddington.

From there we went to take tea and supper at lawyer Tyndals, going there from Snow Hill station by the Great Western hotel down Bull Street along High Street by the market hall and Nelson's monument and several other places of minor importance, to the residence of our host in Paradise Street, where we spent a very pleasant evening, after which we came home down Broad Street and New Street, Edmund Street to Snow Hill. From there after a few minutes delay we came home by Hockley, Soho, West Bromwich and Swan Village. There was not so many drunken people in our route as on the previous day, it being the same as Sunday: I might mention that we passed the Good Templars offices in Birmingham and the Temperance Hall at Wednesbury. We were quite tired when we got home and some of us were soon asleep while the others, George Flowers and William and another young man had a bit of supper before they returned to Darlaston.

Dec 26 We were very lazy this morning and di not get up till late. We intended to go to Ocker Hill Wesleyan Chapel but the breakfast was so long being prepared that we had scarcely began to have it, when it was time to go. William did not want to go and time was wasted, so we went for a walk instead to Princes End and Gospel Oak, then home to dinner, afterwards we went to chapel but there was no service, so we came back home again and while Robert slept, I went to Mr Hindsley's to sing some of Sankey's music and after tea we went to the Wesleyan Chapel and enjoyed the service much.

After supper we took a walk to Wednesbury and back by the blast furnaces to Gospel Oak (Gospel Oak took its name from an oak tree under which John Wesley used to preach the Gospel to the colliers), where we saw a number of people about the public houses, which are very plentiful here. Some were drunk, others were fetching the drink, others were commenting upon this drink (which they call a good creature of God, but what I call a creature of the devil). I saw women with scarecly anything to cover them, they were scant of clothing but plentiful of drink and profane language, it was disgusting to see its degrading influence on its victims: it is a cursed thing, is drink. It is the parent of crime and everything bad; nearly all the evils by which we are surrounded may be attibuted to the drink. Will any right-minded person have reason to thank God that their children or their friends are drinkers? No! Will anybody have reason to thank Him they are not? Yes! Hundreds have had abundant reasons to thank Him for that blessing already. Looking at it in that light, I am still resolved to do all I can to banish it from the land.

Dec 27 Rose early to go to breakfast with George Flowers at Darlaston, where we arrived about 8.30am, after breakfast we went to look at Darlaston Old Church, a fine old building. From there we went to the coal pits where I went into the bed of coal, this was 12 to 14 feet thick, I bought a sample away. We then came by the Old Park Wheel works up to Wednesbury, and saw the Catholic Church and Wednesbury Old Church, a very fine building, then by a large dissenting Place of Worship and the Church of St. John, then the Great Western Railway Station and the police station, several of which I have seen around here; then to the racing ground where we saw a foot race, and then home to lunch, after which we started for Dudley to take dinner.

On the road we saw Tipton church and the cemetary, which covers 150 acres of land, and the Wesleyan Chapel, a fine large building with a spire, then Dudley Hospital by the L and NW station and GWR station, then up by the castle and the fountain, passing up a fine wide street into Dudley market where we saw another fountain and a monument, also a cab stand. We then went to Voctoria Terrace where we took dinner and then to look at Dudley Castle; passing another large chapel, the Methodist New Connexion, up into the castle grounds to examine the watch tower; then we ascended the hill, which was very steep, into the castle, and paid a penny to go to the top of the highest tower, where we had a fine view of the surrounding country. From the top I brought a small stone; then we came down into the grounds and looked through the ancient halls, etc., looking into all the places of importance that we could find; then out down the hill to the first level to the moat and the caverns - one of which we entered and emerged from the other side after a very rough journey.

We then visited the entrances to the other caverns and the subterranean passage to the Castle, after which we left for Wolverhampton where we arrived at 4.15pm, and started at once for the city where we saw the market place, which is covered in, and the Town Hall. We also passed the exchange, the library, the Agricultural Hall, the post office, the theatre and the bank and several places of worship of different denominations, the like of which I have never seen before. Then we went into Queen Square where we saw the monument erected to the memory of Prince Consort; from there we went by the cab-stand and town hall about a mile in search of a fountain, but it was dry. We then started for the station going by some large buildings to the L and NWR through to the GWR, from which we took tickets for Bilston, getting there about 6.30pm, and started at once for the market, going through it and by the town hall to look for another fountain, for I was very thirsty. But when we got there that was dry, so I had to wait till we got to George Flowers. The others quenched their thirst at the dram shop.

From the fountain we went back through the market again and from thence we came by St. Johns Church, the post office and the Primitive and Wesleyan Methodist Chapels, the last is a splendid large building. The people here seem determined to have good places for worship down here; we then came up Moxley by the Unitarian Free Church and the Wesleyan Chapel and the old church at Darlaston in the vicinity of which there are a great many Irish, some of whom it is saide once threw some barley down to entice the weather-cock from the spire (a disturbance may soon be created by repeating the trick in front of an Irishman's house).

When at Darlaston, we went to see George Flowers and had our tea after which we started home, leaving one of the party to stay all night (he being quite used up, having had to lean on me for support for the last mile or two). He had boasted in the morning of his great abilities for walking.

There are one or two things I might mention which I forgot at Wolverhampton; it has a large station with a large arched glass roof, spacious platforms with a crossing under and over the line to each platform, the ticket office is like a square box with first, second and third class apartments and a space all round; tickets could be obtained either side. Also up in the town we saw a very strong church, remarkably so, it had buttresses four feet thick and five feet apart all round. At Dudley Castle we saw two cannons that were taken at Sevastapol: also when we got to Darlaston there was a woman who drank three quarts of ale and a pint of neat brandy one night: and another she drank one gallon of small beer for her supper. She is a dreadful fighter and alsways drunk, at times taking lauunum to satisfy her craving for drink.

O drink thou fiend of Hell, what will not thou do; This woman came of a respectable family and was once the pride and joy of her father's house, bright, handsome and intelligent. Now she is the pest of the neighbourhood. Her husband earns £3 a week and it is spent chiefly in drink. Alas, what will not the drink do; it seems to have magical power over the people and they go blindly on to destruction.

I saw a great many drunken people today, men and women degraded, lower than the beasts. The women have not the least modesty, I have just heard of a family, the father of which gets £7 a week, and before Wednesday it is all gone in drink and extravagance, and they have to go to 'My Uncles' to get a bit of bread by pledging something. I am very sorry to see my brothers make such free use of it as they do; I have warned them but they won't give it up, although they confess it is a great evil killing in its thousands, God preserve them from the misery which awaits so many. There was a Good Templar fete at Darlaston today; I did not know till too late or i should have liked to have went.

Dec 28 Got up at daybreak and went a distance with John before breakfast; not expecting to see him again at present, bid him goodbye as we think of going to Birmingham, Aston Hall, etc., today and home tomorrow, expecting George Flowers to be our guide. But he came down after breakfast to say he could not go today, but will be at liberty tomorrow so we postponed it and stayed in the house all day, going out towards night to see the iron run at the furnaces, but were too late. I intended to have gone to the Temperance Hall but it is not open, so we went to the theatre where we saw a play and a pantomime; I liked the first part best but I felt very uneasy, we came home by the forges and saw them heating large lumps of iron and hammer them flat with a large steam hammer, then roll them into plates and bars, after which we came home. We arrived about half past twelve.

Dec 29 Did not get up till late; went down to the chemical works and saw them making soda acid and brimstone, then came home again and started for Birmingham getting there about 1.30pm. We got on the bus and went straight to Aston Hall, where we saw hundreds of birds of all descriptions; two of a sort and a great many other things too many to mention here. I bought a handbook away with me to refer to.

We left there for the Bull Ring going back in the same way we came. We then went to see the waxworks, St Martins Church and several other places, going down Steelhouse Lane - a noted place for guns, swords etc., then by Bingley Hall to the free library into which place we went and sat a while. From there we went to the show room of the Royal Society of Arts and saw 400 beautiful pictures. We then came home, having spent a very pleasant day seeing the chief sights of Birmingham. We took dinner in the market hall and we got home between ten and eleven.

Dec 30 Got up and prepared for the journey home, starting at 2.30pm from Wednesbury Station, came up through Warwick and Leamington to Banbury arriving there at 4.40pm and staying till 6.10pm, when I left William and came to Towcester, at which place I went to see mother and sister; then home which I reached about 9.50pm. and found the door locked. But I soon got in and went to bed, so good night.

(Editors Note - I am looking for photos of the places mentioned in this article. If you have any and would be willing for them to appear on this page, please email me at the address below.
Mick Pearson)


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