Willenhall History Society
All are welcome to attend meetings or join the Society. The Annual Subscription is £12.00. Non members pay £2.00 to attend each meeting.
The affairs of the Society are run by an elected Committee.
We are always on the lookout for old photographs or records of Willenhall to be copied and added to our substantial collection - please contact a committee member for details.
Bob Rushton Chairman 01902 843006
Gloria Tonks Secretary and Vice Chairman 01902 606369
Jan Morgan Treasurer 01902 631566
June Worthington Membership Secretary
Mollie Bishop Membership Secretary 01922 446755
Norma Bryan Minutes Secretary 01902 630578
John Shercliff Website 01686 430780
Jackie Read Recorder 01922 408971
Ralph Jackson Lock Industry Specialist 01902 631403
Vera Birch 01902 609008
Justin Burrows Reprographics 07900 250141
Correspondence Bob Rushton, 36 Princes Gardens, Codsall, Wolverhampton WV8 2DH
Take place at Willenhall Community and Youth Foundation (aka The CHART Centtre), Gomer Street, Willenhall on the second Tuesday of each month at 7.15pm unless otherwise notified.
The story of Willenhall History Society
Willenhall History Society has been in existence since 1990. The first meeting took place on 11th December that year, when a constitution was adopted, volunteers for the committee were cajoled into taking part and the first few speakers were decided. From that date the Society has gone from strength to strength.
Our first Chairman was Lay Marston, who did sterling work until his sudden death in 2003, when his Deputy, Les Burrows, took on the role with equal commitment. Les retired as Chairman in March 2014, since which point the present Chairman, Bob Rushton, has been doing an excellent job filling their shoes - no easy task.
Since the start there has been a meeting open to the public virtually every month, with a speaker, trip, walk or (at Christmas) a party! The Society has always had a very friendly atmosphere and this must be one of the main reasons for its success, along with the intense interest and pride in Willenhall of the people of the town.
The monthly meetings have been the main regular feature of Willenhall History Society. There have been a lot of interesting talks about different aspects of the history of the town from its famous lock industry, explained by Jim Evans; the local Police Force by John Mellor; Sam and Mary Clayton talked about their book on Willenhall; Peter Arnold on the buildings of Willenhall and Harry Cotterill showed slides of Portobello, Shortheath and Willenhall itself.
There have also been many talks about other historical matters from country houses to fairgrounds and canal tunnels to Churches. All have been very interesting and we must thank all the speakers for keeping us informed and entertained and various members of the committee who have organised the meetings over the years.
There have also been a lot of other events. The walks around Willenhall originally conducted by Lay Marston and Horace Davis have been a great success. This role was later filled by John Shercliff, another founder member of the Society. Now we have walked along every street and looked at every building it must be time to start again! There have also been trips further afield - for example to Lichfield for a tour with John Wright or to the Houses of Parliament with David Winnick. All have been very enjoyable.
In May 1992 the Society celebrated the centenary of the Memorial Clock, erected in May 1892 to the memory of Doctor Tonks, a very popular local doctor. A booklet about his life and tragic death as well as the story of how the clock came to be built was written by Horace Davis, published by the Society and became very popular. On Sunday May 10th 1992 a commemorative plaque on the clock tower was unveiled by Mrs Kathleen Boswell, the granddaughter of Doctor Tonks and the occasion was marked by the town crier and suitable speeches, followed by refreshments in the Willenhall Council Chamber.
The Christmas Social events have also been very pleasant with our brains being kept active by a series of quizzes (very easy!) about Willenhall and general knowledge and entertainment to go with the excellent food provided by members. Maureen Burrows has always been the main organiser behind these events - with a lot of help from the others.
The Society is run by a committee, who work very well together. Financial matters are dealt with by Jan Morgan, and our archive material, mainly gathered by Horace Davis, is kept by Ralph Jackson, a retired locksmith whose fine collection of locks is often on display. If you have a question on locks, ask Ralph! The hard work of all the committee has made the development of the Society possible.
One of the most interesting aspects of the work of the Society has been the collection of old photographs and documents about the town. Many people have kindly donated material or allowed it to be copied and we now have a large collection. We are also lucky to have acquired old movie footage of events in the town during the war and in the fifties and sixties which has now been transferred onto video and makes a very interesting record, especially the film taken by Alan Carter. In October 2014 we received a large quantity of photos and material of the Yale factory that will soon make a fine archive display.
All the books we have published have been very popular with the people of Willenhall and have been sent all over the world to ex Willenhall people as well. We have also made available a series of old postcards of Willenhall, dated c1903 and printed from the original copper plates kindly donated by the Cartwright family, the original printers.
There never seems to be any shortage of ideas for new projects, though some of them seem to take longer to put into practice than others! In the pipeline at present are a book about the shops of the town.
We have always enjoyed a close relationship with Walsall Local History Centre and a lot of the research for books has been done there. Several talks from staff past and present, visits to the centre and the Photographic Time Machine at which old photos of Willenhall were copied have been very popular. We have taken part in a series of Local History Fairs, which give us a chance to meet other local history fans and see what their societies had been doing. The Society also appears at the Carnival in Willenhall Memorial Park and Willenhall Heritage days.
The Society has always had a close connection with the Library, having been started with the help of John Shercliff, then Library Manager, and the meetings were held in the Library until 2002. Thanks to all the library staff for their support and help. We have had lots of help from many people and businesses in the town and without them the Society would not have been the success it has.
As well as providing a pleasant, enjoyable and informative series of meetings and all the other activities mentioned here it is gratifying to realise that the Society has had an influence on the preservation and development of Willenhall, especially the Memorial Park, Market Place and Wood Street Cemetery. This has only been possible through the hard work and dedication of many people in the town but especially Jan Morgan and Paul Kidson, members of the society committee.
There is a good future in prospect for Willenhall History Society and with the support of the people of the town it will continue to make a valuable contribution to the wellbeing of Willenhall and its people.
Willenhall History Society Website 2.12.2014