The Winchurches – last vic­tims of the Flood Street slum clear­ance

Black Country Bugle - - YOUR LETTERS - ROY LANG­FORD looks back at the end of an era for a cor­ner of Dud­ley he once called home

WHEN writ­ing any­thing about the so-called ‘Flood Street area’ of Dud­ley, which is now a large car park, I can’t help think­ing of it with a wist­ful sad­ness.

It was here that so much of my lat­ter child­hood day­dream­ing was played out, and it stirs up all kinds of emo­tions, about peo­ple I had known in that onceneigh­bourly edge of Dud­ley town cen­tre. It was once a thriv­ing com­mu­nity of hard­work­ing peo­ple who in the 1950s and early 1960s had their con­tented lives changed for­ever, with Dud­ley Coun­cil’s purge of the area, and this story deals with one such case of those trau­matic, com­pul­sory slum evic­tions.

Well-worn

It was a sad day for Har­riet and James Winchurch. This some­what non­cha­lant pho­to­graph shows a mid­dle-aged lady shop­keeper stand­ing on her well-worn doorstep. This was a thresh­old which I crossed many times, liv­ing with my grand­par­ents Su­san and Harry Woodall at num­ber 49 Oakey­well Street, be­tween 1943 and 1953.

Cow gown

The lady in the pho­to­graph was Har­riet Winchurch, and she, along with her hus­band James, had been pro­pri­etors of this lit­tle ‘Noah’s Ark’ general store at num­ber 58 Flood Street for more than two decades. If my ag­ing brain box is work­ing well, James al­ways wore a brown cow gown and a flat cap, and was al­ways puff­ing away at a cig­a­rette.

But sadly when this now iconic pho­to­graph was taken in June 1963, I can only sur­mise it was to cap­ture the fi­nal nail in the cof­fin of this gal­lant cou­ple’s ef­forts to save their liveli­hood from the coun­cil’s slum clear­ance scheme. The note with the photo stated that their shop was ‘the last re­main­ing build­ing’ in the re­de­vel­op­ment area, and was await­ing de­mo­li­tion un­der the or­der which from my own per­sonal knowl­edge had been in force since the au­tumn of 1953.

How pre­car­i­ous their sit­u­a­tion was can be seen by a glance to the right hand side of her shop door­way, which shows a bit of rub­ble and derelict land which once housed a very pop­u­lar ale house named The Good Fel­lows Arms, and which was jok­ingly named ‘The Legs’. The last pro­pri­etor of that pub, if my re­seach is cor­rect, was listed in the early 1950s as a Mr M.S. Wes­son, and from photographic ev­i­dence the pub was still in­tact up to 1958.

But whether it was open for trad­ing pur­poses in an­other mat­ter, and I would wel­come any feed­back on the sub­ject.

My other thought af­ter 55 years is what hap­pened to Har­riet and James af­ter their evic­tion, which must have been, at a guess, within a few weeks of that June 1963 dead­line?

Grit

I won­der, did her Black Coun­try grit spur her on to open up an­other sim­i­lar shop, well away from the threat of Dud­ley Coun­cil’s bull­doz­ers? In my heart of hearts I hope she did, and I wait in hope for any an­swers to my ques­tion.

Har­riet Winchurch in the door­way of her shop, the last re­main­ing build­ing in the re­de­vel­oped Flood Street area

Har­riet’s lit­tle shop at num­ber 58 Flood Street, nestled be­tween the Good Fel­lows Arms at far left, and Ho­race Broom’s for­mer bi­cy­cle and wire­less ac­ces­sories shop.also note the gen­tle­men’s uri­nal which was at­tached to the old Dress­cott Cloth­ing fac­tory at right

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