|Memories of Fazeley, written by Joseph T. Hunter in August 2008 when he was 88 years old.
The Basket Weavers and Boat House of FazeleyApparently before 1910 my maternal grandfather along with other villagers had allotments on the piece of land between the Tamworth bridge and the aquaduct. Then along came a family of Richardsons, two brothers and a son (Sweater). They planted out the whole area with willows and they lived in one of four terraced houses called Willow View, built in 1912. As the willows grew they put out long shoots about 5 to 6 foot long called osiers and they were used in the making of baskets.
The family worked in a large warehouse alongside the Fazeley canal and along with ' Batch Simpkins', Mr Mears, an old gent who smoked from a clay pipe and Charlie Goodwin, weaved their baskets.
The osiers first of all would be bound to a workable bundle, boiled in a bath to make them more pliable and lowered into the canal to cool off. The warehouse was dimly lit and the men would sit on cushions and with the osiers, weave baskets of all sizes.
A lorry would bring their largest order from G Skey Ltd of Two Gates (later taken over by Doultons) and would contain earthenware jars and vessels, from the smallest which contained ink to the largest which had a capacity of 15 gallons. Most of them did not have handles and the baskets would be woven around them.
A number of years ago the establishment was bought by Richard Barnes, and up in the attic I found one of the large carboy type jars. The basket was riddled with woodworm and covered in pigeon droppings but inside lay this large vessel in pristine condition, straight out of the kiln at Two Gates and probably lain there for 40 years. I bought it, and against my better judgement, sold it for a song in a Mile Oak auction. I had a word with the vendor and he told me that it was going to a good home in a Birmingham hotel.
As time moved on, the basket weavers passed away, the Richardsons were a childless couple and no apprentices came forward to carry on the business. The last weaver was Charlie Goodwin.
Several tradesmen later occupied the premises and then along came Bob Houghton, who had served his time on aircraft carriers. He built a slipway on to the canal and carried out his business of building boats. After his demise, Richard Barnes, from Fisherwick, bought the premises along with the now closed Methodist Church and produced tail fins for racing cars.
Now sadly, at this time, that corner of Lichfield Street has been demolished to make way for still more housing. It includes the navigation wharf, where, as a boy, I saw coal unloaded from Samuel Barlow's barges by crane and boat horses stabled overnight at the Three Tuns.
Also gone are outbuildings once used for fibre glass mouldings, the old blacksmith shop, a dwelling called 'Silk Star', 3 other dwellings, the old basket weaving shop and Den Brown's sweet shop, leaving the Three Tuns standing alone, all in the name of progress.