Charles Steward writes of growing up in Fazeley in the 1950s and 60s...

Charles Steward

I grew up in Mill Lane, Fazeley. Originally at No. 11 and then No. 25. Same house but a different numbering of that side of the Lane. My parents Maurice And Cecelia Steward bought the house I think from the Barratt family. They did well buying a house as both were on modest incomes but affording to maintain it was another matter. I remember leaky roofs and other issues that took time to resolve, years actually. They did keep a small green-grocers that used to belong to the Twomlows, but it didn't last long as a viable business so the closed shop became and my childhood playroom.

Dad worked at Drayton Manor Park, I did as a youngster too. He grew up in Mill Lane at No. 48. With his parents Fred and Rose Steward, his sisters Winifred and Eileen. Rose grew up in the same house with her family, the Bakers.

I loved living by the canal with Tolson's Mill opposite. Everybody became used to the constant sound of the looms which provided work for generations of women, and a few men producing tape, bias binding and other similar products.

As kids we used to swim in the canal, raft and also play on the thick canal ice in the winter. Health and Safety hadn't been thought of!!!

I can still recall some of Mill Lane's characters:- Tommy Bott, Ada Arnold who incidentally is on the 1911 Census as a young woman, no young woman as I remember her. Dido and Fanny Wilson, Annie Moore, the Davies house where horse betting took place. Was that illegal? Probably not. Harry and Madeline Taylor. Various Barrett's, Smiths, Chetwynds, Thompsons, Brindleys and Housemans. Bayliss' butchers with Mrs Bayliss sat in the little office in the shop.

I remember the Lane's first divorce, the first cars, the first people to have proper bathrooms built from the outside toilet and coal house being knocked through. I remember someone going on a foreign holiday! Jersey actually, but we thought it was foreign. The coalman, milkman, baker all called. The insurance man, the talley man......But coal was dropped to the front of the houses and manually moved to the coal house. Then there were the smogs, the big freeze in 1962, the Fazeley Road flood, the Beatles at Tamworth Assembly Rooms!

I did a paper round for the Booths in Coleshill Street then collected the paper money on Saturday. So I knew Lichfield St. Free Trade and many of Mr Booth's customers. Mrs. Foley, Rosie Wilcox from Mill Lane worked in the shop and another Mrs Booth whose son Gerald went to Australia. Such adventures.

I remember teachers at the two schools:- Miss Smith, Mrs Brewster, Mrs Bott, Miss Brierley and the Headmistress Miss Harvey. Miss Brierley was just the tops, I totally respected her, and as she lived in the village she was well known by all.

I recall us shouting to the bargees of the horse drawn barges 'what's the horse's name?' from the infant school playground.

I grew up with Colin Adams, Peter Passey, Robert Latham, Ronald Timms, Mary Thompson, Janice Archer and many more. I do remember Ian Bowler - another contributor to this web site - and also the Hunter twins whose memories are also included here. Winnie Michie and Derrick lived I believe at number 50 Mill Lane for some time with their children.

I recall once going along the canal to see Grandma and Grandad then living in Coleshill Rd and finding an elderly lady straddled across a stile leading to the wooden bridge. Her name was Patience and she had needed exactly that as she had been there some time, one leg either side of the railing type stile. Stuck! I was her knight in shining armour, sort of, as I helped her out of her predicament without her losing her dignity. I think that had been lost given her helpless situation. But she was very grateful.

Sweets from Congraves' shop, groceries from the Harris', more sweets from Mr Brown, paint from Jones', chips from Skudders, paraffin from Fidgeons, the Cricket & Social Club, Victoria Working Men's Club, then there was Fazeley Methodist Chapel with Florrie Barlow and Tom Bird. The 198, 765, 800, 805, Midland Red buses. So much remembered but so much forgotten!!

Then the demolition of most of Old Mill Lane, the new Council houses and flats, the new housing with canal side mooring, the Old Mill at the bottom of the Lane being let out and developed for small businesses with the Lane becoming a busy road. Tolson's main Mill falling into disuse.

Mill Lane just before demolition.

But Mill Lane is still there. I am elsewhere now but memories do live on. Ours was the first generation where men were not sent to war, education allowed any to move on in life on merit not just background, many diseases had been overcome, money was in pockets more than ever before and the world was the oyster for so many.

About Charles Steward
My life in Fazeley commences when my Mother brought me home from an Adoption Agency at seven months. I was born in 1948 and it was a full year before I legally became a Steward. My parents I think wisely brought me up knowing I was adopted. So as far as I was concerned Cecelia and Maurice were my parents and that is how I remember them now very fondly.

A dedicated follower of fashion!