January 19th - On the way back, I passed Chesterfield Lodge on Raikes Lane. It always looks so peaceful and welcoming at night, but on Victorian maps, this was marked as a workhouse. Whether it was this actual building or a predecessor, I never quite worked out. I’m still hoping Kate Cardigan of Lichfield Lore might weave some of her investigative magic here and find out the truth one day.
It’s an absolutely gorgeous house, that’s for sure.
January 5th - It was a thoroughly horrid afternoon. Windy, wet, dark. I went out with a heavy heart, and didn’t find much of interest in the immediate area, so I spun out to Shenstone down the very wet and muddy backlanes.
Visiting the church, I was again reminded what a gothic, ugly edifice it is. I’ve never liked it; it’s a perfectly competent architectural design, it’s just not to my taste. I find the dark grey sandstone, and heavy Victoriana dismal. Even the gargoyles look desperately unhappy.
Compare St. Johns, Shenstone with any other local church, say Hopwas. Hopwas is a place you’d feel happy to give praise in, to wed, to christen; Shenstone looks like a place to go and endure, repent and suffer - it’s full of foreboding.
More interesting to me is the old tower in the churchyard; crumbling, it’s the remains of an earlier church. Perhaps it would have been better left.
Down in the village,I headed to the Lammas Land - a strip of parkland along the Footherley Brook. On the way, I passed The Plough In, busy, bright, inviting. Newly reopened, it’s good to see. It had been derelict for a few years.
August 18th - I passed through West Hill in Cannock on the way to Pye Green. I always come this way if I’m heading to the west of the Chase, but the hills are punishing. Today, I stopped to take a drink and noticed West Hill Primary School. What a fine bit of Victorian, municipal architecture it is. Huge windows, fantastically detailed in execution, the brickwork around the gables and eaves is a joy to behold, as are the decorative ironwork - just look at the floral finials. Good job they chose regular numbers and not Roman for the date inscription, that gable would have to have been a lot wider…
Then, as I moved on a little, I spotted what must have been the original school house; plainer, simpler, but again with lovely arched end windows and imposing chimneys.
This is a fine school indeed.
July 17th - For the first time in what must be ages, I cycled through Acocks Green on my way to work. I love this delightful, tree-lined suburb. The streets of victorian townhouses are gorgeous in any season, but sparkled today. I love how busy the frontages are - jagged window and roof lines; the chimney pots. I could study this for hours.
November 20th - At the ‘cute Victorian’ end of the railway station spectrum is Shenstone. Full of stereotypical metroland classic commuter charm, this was one of the last stations built on the old Cross City line, when the fillip was added between Sutton and Lichfield. It’s a gorgeous, terracotta brick, semi gothic marvel, sadly defiled by having it’s lovely glass canopy destroyed and chimneystacks truncated. In this dormitory commuter village, it is dark and quiet on the station at night, and I think, even in a steady drizzle, that it is beautiful. A good place to leave from, and a fine place to return to.
October 7th - Bridgtown, in Cannock, is a quirky little place. In essence, a former mining community, it exists as a little island all on it’s own. Although it is part of the wider Cannock conurbation, it seems to be separate, and has idiosyncratic, brick-paved side streets full of great victorian terraces. It also a a very distinctive range of shops, and I’ve never worked out quite why. Here, you can buy vintage clothing, Landrover spares, traditional sweets, or a tarot reading. This is a great place, and I’ve never worked out why it’s so unique.
May 16th - Today found me in Tyseley, which made a change. I don’t come down this way much, but when I do, I always love the air of bustle in these industrial, urban streets. There’s always something going on around every corner; stuff to be shifted, things being unloaded. The backtreets are alive with the buzz of small industry - sewing machines, lathes, injection moulders all add to the background susurration, along with the clank of metal, clatter of doors and hiss of compressed air. Intermingled with it all is the faded air of a once possibly genteel Victorian place, whose station still bears the hallmarks of that period, from when the nearby terraces must also date. Most people pass this place in disgust, but actually, if you spend a while and traverse its streets, it has a kind of faded charm all of its own.
April 29th - A return along the canal prompted me to photograph this fine piece of history. One of only two listed structures in Brownhills, it used to carry the South Staffordshire Railway over the Wyrley and Essington Canal. It’s now slowly decaying, with large holes in the bridge deck and the metalwork corroding steadily.
Sadly, nobody seems to want to take responsibility for this unloved bridge. It’s a shame, because I think it’s a fine example of victorian utilitarian architecture - simple blue brick, lightly decorated, totally functional.